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Fun Has Gone Out of the Business, Says DDB Exec

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Assailing ad agency hypocrisy, mergers that have left clients reeling and multimillionaire ad executives with an "I've got more money than God"
Lee Garfinkel took aim at a number of industry problems.
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attitude, Lee Garfinkel, chairman and chief creative officer of DDB in New York, bemoaned the grim state of the ad business at today's final session of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' New Business Summit.

No more fun
In his remarks at Manhattan's Millennium Hotel, Mr. Garfinkel outlined a number of factors that had taken the fun out of advertising. "To have multimillionaires [in the industry] is bad for clients who already think they're paying too much," he said.

When asked if his high-roller comments were targeted at anyone in particular, Mr. Garfinkel declined to name names, but many in the audience saw his remark as a thinly veiled reference to Donny Deutsch, chairman-CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch Inc.

'More than a talker'
Mr. Garfinkel talked about the need for a new generation of advertising industry superstars. "For a superstar to gain respect in the industry he must be more than just a talker, he must be a talent." Mr. Garfinkel listed as his own advertising icons David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Ed McCabe, Phil Dusenberry, Lee Clow and Jeff Goodby.

Skewering some of the industry hypocrisy surrounding integration, Mr. Garfinkel wondered how teams could effectively share the big idea when they've been hived off in different offices. "Before, they were all employees, now they're all bosses. It's the craziest thing."

Underlining another area where agencies had gone wrong, Mr. Garfinkel said research and testing were "freaking everyone out," and that agencies were finding it harder to just trust their own instincts. "I'm an expert, but don't trust my opinion," read one of the slides in his presentation.

Left clients reeling
Mr. Garfinkel's compelling speech, interspersed with movies clips and quotes from rock star Bruce Springsteen, poignantly described the industry's own differentiation problems. Showing a slide with the agency brands that now form Interpublic's Lowe, (Lowe, Tucker Metcalf, Marchalk, Scali McCabe, Sloves, G&J, SSC&B, Lintas, Ammirati Puris and Bozell) Mr. Garfinkel aptly made the point that the number of mergers in recent years had left clients reeling. (Mr. Garefinkel's own agency is owned by giant agency holding company Omnicom Group.)

Agencies were not the only ones coming in for criticism. Clients that choose a "multi-multi roster" of agencies often acted like they were "king of the world," he said.

Wrapping up the speech with some positive steps for change, Mr. Garfinkel called for an industrywide minimum fee and called on agencies to retain copyright to their work unless they are given additional fees. Borrowing from Bruce Springsteen's songwriting mantra, Mr. Garfinkel concluded that agencies should always try to "shine a light on new opportunities."

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