A FUNNY BUSINESS-AGAIN

Published on .

It's good to see agency chiefs having fun.

For Jerry Della Femina of Jerry Inc. and Paul Alvarez of Ketchum Communications, it was immortalizing on videotape their out-of-the-box negotiations for a joint venture agency called Jerry & Ketchum Inc.

The tape, an instant classic "documentary," shows Mr. Alvarez walking along Madison Avenue in the rain, looking for an agency to buy. A hot dog vendor steers him to a building that houses an agency and there Mr. Alvarez finds Mr. Della Femina in an office labelled, "The Big Cheese."

Paul asks if Jerry wants to make a deal. Jerry thinks for a second, says okay, and the rest, as we say, is history. Good fun-even if the hot dog vendor is still waiting for a finder's fee. But there's another aspect of this Jerry & Ketchum deal that mustn't be forgotten.

Remember the days when the heads of two agencies would be seen together having lunch at a restaurant and, before either one got back to his office, merger rumors would be buzzing all over town?

Seen-together-at-lunch spottings triggered lots of phone calls. But times changed. Grim prospective merger partners began to meet in hotel rooms. Or lawyers' offices. They would use different entrances to get there and avoid riding in the same elevator. This procedural shift symbolizes how much fun has gone out of the business.

But now we find when Jerry and Paul were putting together their deal, they boldly arranged to meet for lunch at Four Seasons. There they sat, greeting fellow agency execs and news media people, and nobody connected their togetherness with a deal-in-the-making.

Some will say their sharply contrasting public images shut down the old rumor mill. Others will ask, "What's a rumor mill?" But what these two agency heads were really doing was enjoying each other's company and having a few laughs as they closed their deal.

Thanks. We needed that.

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