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The American Association of Advertising Agencies had its annual meeting last month, a time when leaders of the agency business gathered to consider the state of the industry. It was intended to be a time for reflection, information and inspiration. Unfortunately, it fell short of its goals in some respects because many of the leaders of the nation's top agencies were, once again, conspicuous by their absence.

It's a sad state of affairs to witness this annual lack of participation at the top level of our industry. Many who call themselves leaders have abdicated responsibility. They have withdrawn into their offices, focusing their attention exclusively on their own interests.

They have forgotten the legacy of those who paved the way for the rest of us. They have forgotten people like Leo Burnett, Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy-industry giants who were leaders of their industry as well as of their own companies. They recognized their obligation to support their industry and to prepare their successors. Unfortunately, it appears that today's list of industry leaders is pretty short.


The sad truth is too many of our industry's top people are self-serving and self-absorbed. Too often you hear them say, "Why should I go to that meeting? What am I going to get out of it?" They don't seem to know that leadership is about giving, not taking.

We need those at the top to come down and help: Help teach tomorrow's leaders; help tackle the tough issues; help forge an industry vision that leaves a legacy for those who will follow-just as many previous industry leaders did for them. We need them-all of them-to propel our industry into the 21st century with excitement and enthusiasm.

In his best-selling management book "Leadership is an Art," Max DePree, CEO of Herman Miller Inc., talks about leaders as servants and as people who remove obstacles. He also says that leaders have an obligation to leave a legacy. It seems to me that executives in our business are falling short on all three counts.

We need people who will help remove obstacles-people like Ed Wax, chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide, who had the courage to confront the diversity issue head-on with an aggressive plan and a commitment to lead. We need people who have guts, who will speak up and address the tough issues, both ethical and practical.

The advertising industry cannot leave a legacy until we let go of today and reach out for tomorrow. In order to move forward, we must shift our focus from preserving the present to building the future.

The new Four A's chair must be the catalyst to coalesce the industry's leadership to fulfill the Four A's mission-"to improve and strengthen the advertising agency business in the U.S." Every member must actively support that endeavor. Only then will we leave a true legacy.

Many of us have spent the past decade worrying about our own survival. The `80s took a heavy toll on our industry. Many of us had to focus all our energy internally to keep our own agencies afloat. Some of us had to close our doors.


But now the slump is over. The economy has improved and opportunities abound. It's time to come out of our fancy offices and take a hard look at our industry. We need to examine practical and ethical issues. We need to enrich and transform our industry-locally, nationally and globally.

There's an old Indian legend that says every person has a white dog and a black dog inside, fighting for control. The white dog is good and brave, and the black dog is selfish and cowardly. When a young brave asked the wise chief how he could make his white dog win the battle, the chief said simply, "Feed him."

It appears that our industry is being overtaken by a pack of black dogs. We need to start feeding the white dog. It's not just a nice thing to do-it's essential for our industry's success.

Mr. Bucci, president-CEO MARC Advertising, Pittsburgh, was elected secretary-treasurer of the Four A's in April.

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