HINT OF BETTER DAYS AHEAD

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va.-Executives attending the 76th annual American Association of Advertising Agencies conference here last week felt they got their money's worth for the group's final trek to the Greenbrier Resort.

"This meeting is either Jurassic Park or the Garden of Eden," depending on how prepared agencies are for the future, said Bob Schmetterer, a partner at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, who spoke on agency re-engineering.

Conferences past have drawn criticism for wholly self-serving and predictable sessions, but the speech delivered by Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO Ed Artzt seemed to stoke subsequent speakers.

"I think it's fair to say that the worst is behind us and the future is actually starting to look promising," O. Burtch Drake, new Four A's president-CEO, said in his first address to members.

As if to underscore his assertion, Mr. Drake said later that the Four A's "put $300,000 on its bottom line" for the year ended March 31, 1993, after four years of flat results.

In other highlights, Chiat/Day Chairman Jay Chiat took his peers to task for allowing their fear of losing clients to affect creative work, adding, "in our case, we've lost them whether we've done good work or not."

Mr. Chiat challenged the Four A's to begin a survey of client-agency relationships and to lead an industrywide effort to recruit more minorities into the agency business. Chiat/Day, he said, would start a matching fund aimed at recruiting and training minorities and pledged $100,000 over four years to the effort.

As for his plans, Mr. Chiat joked that he plans a new business: "A chain of psychiatry shops to counsel people becoming roadkill on the information superhighway."

Also at the Four A's:

New Four A's officers were elected. Chairman is Ed Wax, who's also chairman-CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide. Replacing Mr. Wax as vice chairman is Burt Manning, chairman-CEO of J. Walter Thompson Co. William La Warre, president-CEO of Northlich Stolley LaWarre, Cincinnati, was elected Four A's secretary-treasurer.

Three executives also were named directors at large: Eric Mower, chairman-CEO of Eric Mower & Associates, Syracuse, N.Y.; Ogilvy & Mather North American President Shelly Lazarus; and Martin Puris, president-CEO of Ammirati & Puris, New York.

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