FOUR A'S VS. CLIENTS

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One of the key points made by O. Burtch Drake upon being named to succeed the heroic John O'Toole as president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies is that "some clients have forgotten how important advertising agencies are to their brands." Mr. Drake intends to change that.

This means the Four A's-and advertising-should be in for some badly needed debates, arguments, and battles with clients. Even for a can-do guy like Mr. Drake, an executive who showed a knack for problem-solving while serving as the Four A's exec VP-chief operating officer under Mr. O'Toole, the struggle to thaw out today's gelid, seemingly commoditized agency-client relationships, represents a formidable challenge.

In our changing world, you mix together agencies that generally haven't been able to grasp today's roles for themselves and clients that are not exactly on top of their game when it comes to developing sound marketing strategies, and it's apparent advertising's role as a brand-builder will suffer. And the Four A's-for obvious reasons-has not been known to go after its membership's clients publicly for doing stupid and short-sighted things.

On our Jan. 17 Viewpoint: Forum page, Murray Hillman of The Strategy Workshop in New York put forth the proposition that "advertising is lousy because client marketing is lousy." And the result, he maintains, is that agencies take the blame for the wrongheaded business decisions of client managers.

That Mr. Drake seems ready to address this situation is laudable, as is his eagerness to press for fairer compensation for agency service, including royalty payments for valuable creative work that builds and sustains brands.

With Mr. O'Toole beginning his new life as a retired Four A's president, having earned widespread respect and admiration for his bright, energetic championing of advertising and of the need for change in the advertising agency business, we believe that in Mr. Drake the Four A's has chosen the right successor. As long as he shows he cannot abide the status quo, we've all got to root for Burtch Drake's success.

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