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Are there more agency reviews today than 10 years ago? You bet.

The increase in account mobility has given rise to at least two new job functions within the narrow world of advertising: search consultant and agency director of new business.

Both functions are growing and attracting senior-level talent from the more mundane world of managing a current client's business. Both are making news, giving rise to increased awareness of account movement which, in turn, is feeding the frenzy by planting seeds in advertisers' minds. But this is effect, not cause.

To understand the causes of the dramatic increase in agency reviews, you must take a historic perspective on the last decade. To begin with, there are more advertisers-therefore, more business up for grabs. Consumer elec-tronics, healthcare, telecommunications and over-the-counter/

pharmaceuticals have developed at a rapid pace and are all fields where marketing in general and advertising in particular play an instrumental role.


There are more brands, from both existing companies and new ones, requiring more agencies to handle them. This leads to agency searches.

All these new brands and categories have increased competition in the marketplace. This strains existing brands and promotes re-evaluation of marketing tools and suppliers among brand managers. This leads to agency reviews.

On a grander scale, U.S. business "re-engineered" itself into leaner and meaner companies to compete in the global marketplace. Both marketers and ad agencies participated in the merge, purge and acquire mania of the past decade. All this restructuring caused tremendous personnel movement, particularly at senior management levels, previously very stable. People were no longer loyal to their companies because their companies were no longer loyal to them. It was only a matter of time before companies were no longer loyal to each other. And 20- and 30-year-old advertiser/

agency relationships fell by the wayside.


All the personnel movement also caused another phenomenon in the agency world: senior talent, no longer held captive by their loyalty or security (now that nothing is secure), discovered, after years of risk aversion, that change is good-a new job is fun and profitable. As talent moves, so do clients. The more things change, the more things change. Intrigue replaces inertia.

The increase in "new business," with the accompanying effect of lost business, has given rise to an unprecedented competitiveness among agencies. They are all jostling for competitive leverage by attracting new talent; expanding capabilities; merging and acquiring; winning new business and resigning old due to conflicts; and bundling and unbundling their services.

This just further feeds the environment for more change. It also commoditizes the agency business. If an agency is the sum of its people, and the people are constantly moving, what differentiates agencies? And, if price is no longer standardized at the 15% commission, why shouldn't an advertiser shop around?

Change is good-isn't it?

Ms. Fidelman is president of search consultancy ADvice & ADvisors, New York.

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