CAR DEALERS NEED OWN SHOP; WHY CARU CITED NERF; NETWORKS SET THE STANDARD; FIRST AMENDMENT WARFARE; WHO CARES ABOUT FRESHNESS?; BURMA-SHAVE LIVES ON; REVISIONISM REVISITED

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I have sent the following letter to John Smale, chairman of General Motors:

With over two decades of service as an independent advertising agency to the Tri-State (metro New York) Ford Dealers Association, I am following with particular interest Chevrolet division's financial inducements to their dealer associations to link up with the mother agency [AA, March 4].

Given your brief tenure in the auto industry, I thought it appropriate to offer my ex- perience in that particular area not only to enlighten you but hopefully to head off proliferation of this potential plague.

As an alumnus of Ford division's national agency, J. Walter Thompson Co., let me assure you that a major conflict exists between the goals of an auto manufacturer and their dealer retail outlets and associations.

You will undoubtedly make great strides in changing the attitude of General Motors' corporate staff and their counterparts at the various GM divisions. It will take a very long time for you or anyone else in the industry to change the single goal of all manufacturers' representatives in the field, i.e., the wholesaling of vehicles. And therein the problem with your concept of centralizing all advertising through the national agency.

Manufacturer advertising direction to its agency is too often at the wholesale level. Should dealer association ad dollars be used to wholesale vehicles? Should dealers be enticed to buy product by advertising paid for by their dollars?

An independent advertising agency without pressure from the manufacturer can stick to the task of moving merchandise off dealer lots-not onto the lots! A very important difference.

Jim Gallagher

Gallagher Group

New York

Re T.N.T. #418 (AA, April 11, referring to objections by the Children's Advertising Review Unit to a Nerf Sharpshooter ad for "promoting anti-social behavior.") Our objection to the Nerf spot had nothing to do with the relative social merits of the play-fighting depicted in the spot. The "Nerf or Nothin" campaign has evolved from focusing on the product (if you don't have a Nerf you have nothing) to a negative social message (if you don't have a Nerf you are nothing).

The aspect of the spot that CARU considers to be anti-social, and a violation of our principles and self-regulatory guidelines, is the implication that not owning this product will cause a child to be excluded or even victimized by his peers.

By the way, we continually enjoy the humor of the T.N.T. column and look forward to the results of the contest.

Arthur I. Prober

VP-Children's Advertising Review Unit, Council of Better Business Bureaus

New York

In your Feb. 14 issue, Tim Duncan of ASTA posed the question, "What is a network?" He concluded that ABC, CBS and NBC are no longer networks and are equivalent to the syndicators he represents.

Syndication, in reality, does not even start to approach the standards of a real network. To advertisers, ABC, CBS and NBC are valuable because they offer national coverage; uniform station line-ups; broadcast standards and practices; and accountability.

Here are several points that show the differences between syndicators and a real network:

Live clearances: Although some syndicated shows claim uniform daypart clearances, a look at actual clearances tells quite a different story. For example, "The Untouchables," touted as a "prime-time" show, actually clears in less than 50% of the U.S. in prime time. And "A Current Affair" has significant clearances in daytime (21%) and post-prime (23%), even though it is usually promoted as an early fringe/prime access program.

When time shifting occurs, the networks always strive to minimize the effect of the change. When programs shift in daytime, they are typically moved from one end of the time block to the other, to maintain the continuous flow of network programming. And in late night, Letterman and Leno are never delayed more than 30 minutes, and "Nightline" clears in 95% of the U.S. within 60 minutes of its live telecast.

Coverage: In the fourth quarter of 1993, of 135 regular adult programs that aired on the three networks in any daypart, 103 aired in at least 97% of the country. Of the 99 adult syndicated programs, less than half aired in 90% or more of the country. Syndicated programs simply operate in a different arena than the networks.

As for broadcast standards and practices, ABC, CBS and NBC have easily the strictest content standards in the industry for everything they broadcast (programming and advertising), and, unlike some syndicators, their accountability in terms of electronic audience and station clearance verification is beyond reproach.

Marcella Rosen

President-ceo

Network Television Association

New York

In a society where freedom of speech is cherished ... the continuous assault upon the First Amendment is a war on many fronts.

On one front is a monitoring group, the National Stigma Clearinghouse, and an alliance of mental health agencies vs. a Nike ad campaign with Dennis Hopper last football season. The agency creating the controversial campaign, Wieden & Kennedy, anticipates their spot will serve as a purpose of awareness and entertainment with the intention of being provocative. But the complaint is of stereotyping mental illness, with the ad implying the mentally ill are untrustworthy and outcasts of society.

It is here, in the battlefield of media advertising, where watchdog monitoring groups and provocative commercial spots will clash in the name of free speech.

What is at stake is not so much the quality and content of Nike's ads, but of who controls what is viable for the general American audience through national television. ... The "golden rule" of appropriate characterization in advertising, to avoid any specific offensiveness, serves to harness the broad range of creativity available to the marketplace.

Ken Salazar

Banning, Calif.

PepsiCo doesn't make too many mistakes, but when they do, like Coca-Cola ("new Coke") it's a big one. Does anyone know or care who Weatherspoon is? Is freshness dating important? Not to me.

Coca-Cola's new contoured plastic bottle coming out is much more exciting and has boosted sales 30% in test markets. I predict Pepsi will cancel the campaign midstream.

Roger Cohn

Domino's Pizza franchisee

Tucson, Ariz.

(sent via Prodigy)

Editor's note: The initial spots for Pepsi freshness dating (AA, April 4) featured Craig Weatherup, president-ceo of Pepsi-Cola North America.

As a follow-up to your Burma-Shave article, my former company, Advertising Distributors of America, was retained by Leonard O'Dell back in the 1950s to judge the contests and distribute samples of Burma-Shave shaving cream and elelctric shave lotion. I still have some of those samples

We also distributed leaflets with some of the favorite signs. Unfortunately none of the leaflets survived. However, indelible in my mind are the following:

His tenor voice/she thought devine/till whiskers scratched/sweet Adeline. Burma-Shave.

Drunken drivers/enhance their chance/to highball home/ in an ambulance.

The drunks who/drive on Sunday/are seldom seen/on Monday.

Walter O. Lindstrom

Lindstrom Associates

Scarsdale, N.Y.

The older I get, the more I am amazed at the sheer will people have to see things the way they want them to be. Rance Crain labels The New York Times' description of the materialistic '80s as revisionist in his column "Looking fondly back at the Reagan years" (AA, March 14), yet goes on to state that "even the greed part of the greed decade may not have been so bad." Kind of akin to "greed is good" don't you think? Revisionist, heal thyself.

Lars Justinen

Justinen Creative Group

Nampa, Idaho

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