MAIN STREET HAS ADVANTAGE; A LIVELY REPONSE; 'COMPUTE' WAS FIRST; CONSULTANTS ARE FOR WIMPS; THIS SPOT IS A LEGEND; GOOD 'SUITS' NURTURE IDEAS

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Main Street has advantage

Sen. Dale Bumpers is apparently too busy drafting legislation to do a little comparison shopping between direct marketers and local retailers. He says his bill to require mail marketers to collect each customer's local sales tax "is designed to ensure that mail-order companies and Main Street retailers compete on an equal basis ..."(AA, Feb. 7).

The senator's statement implies that direct marketers now enjoy an undue pricing advantage. I believe that comparison shopping would quickly show him that, from the consumer perspective, the opposite is true. Usually a person who buys an item by mail not only pays the full retail price but also the ubiquitous (and sometimes substantial) shipping and handling fee. In our household, these shipping charges average about 12% of the merchandise's price. Thus in a 6%-sales-tax state, it costs us an additional 6% premium to shop by mail, compared with shopping on Main Street.

Senator Bumpers' justification for the proposed legislation must be put down either to insincere political rhetoric or ignorance born of life in a Washington ivory tower.

G. Norman Van Tubergen

Associate professor

Department of Communication

University of Kentucky

Lexington

A lively response

Your USAir-TLC story has gone around the world and back. [The Jan. 3 article related USAir's offer of frequent flier miles to funeral directors who use the airline when shipping bodies, called the TLC Award Program.]

After your story ran, a piece ran on the Knight Ridder news service. Also, U.S. News & World Report ran a news brief after they read your piece. From there, the rest is history. I have never seen such a media feeding frenzy.

From CNN, AP, Bloomberg and Reuters to Funeral Director Today and live radio talk shows in Australia, the TLC story has gone everywhere. It made Jay Leno's opening monologue. Even Business Week ran a piece with a photo. Call volume to the TLC desk is up 100%. A few consumers have even called, trying to "plan ahead" for shipping themselves to their final resting place.

Andrea Butler

Media relations manager

USAir

Arlington, Va.

`Compute' was first

Imagine our surprise when we read in your Jan. 3 issue about several new computer magazines aimed at the home market-and nary a word about the oldest, most established and comprehensive magazine already serving this segment.

Established in 1979, Compute is the first magazine devoted to the home PC market. It has a growing circulation (current rate base is now 275,000) and steadily increasing advertising linage (our total of 958 pages in 1993 was up 24.4% over 1992!).

William F. Marlieb

President, marketing, sales

& circulation, General Media

Publishing Group

New York

Consultants are for wimps

I was astounded by your article "Courtship by consultant" (AA, Jan. 31). What is happening to the advertising industry? It is following in the footsteps of the film, music and publishing industries, where it is almost forbidden to communicate with a prospective client before first going through the much dreaded "agent" experience, which demands large commission fees for often unnecessary and forced services.

Who are these corporate wimps who hire others to do their jobs and subsequently cost advertisers and, eventually, the consumer hundreds of thousands in the process?

Any senior VP of marketing or advertising working for a major advertiser who isn't well versed on how to communicate with an ad agency, or lacking the skills to supervise and direct a major agency account review, should be fired on the spot for incompetence.

The responsibility for this new and costly phenomenon can only rest on the shoulders of bamboozled ceos and presidents ... for failing to recognize the lack of talent their overpaid advertising/marketing directors possess, thereby undermining and contributing to the future demise of the ad agency concept as we know it.

Henri Wolfe

Henri Wolfe Productions

Cross River, N.Y.

Most of the agency search consultants you find in today's marketplace, and many you profiled in your article, are "retired ad executives" who seem to be floating through the remainder of their careers on their golden parachutes. Your article indicated that it is their "years in the business" that qualifies them in assisting advertising in finding and/or evaluating an advertising agency.

The reality is that the entire marketplace is changing every day. What worked yesterday does not always work today. The search industry, just like any other, needs innovation and new-product development to address the complexity of client-agency relationships in the '90s.

For example, one of our proprietary methodologies, called CultureScan, is designed to measure the corporate culture between two organizations as an indicator of the long-term viability of the relationship. We have applied the latest thinking in organizational psychology to this industry, adding real value and substance to the service our competitors casually refer to as "marriage counseling."

We also don't agree that agency search consultants are being "tarred by a broad brush"; only that they are being pushed by competition to provide more structure and innovation to the services they provide.

Jeffrey K. Cox

Exec VP

Rojek Marketing Group

Canton, Ohio

This spot is a legend

I find the recent TV commercial ("Don't you wish you could be this comfortable with all your decisions? ... Some things are worth the price") for the Acura Legend sedan to be by far the most compelling programming on today's airwaves.

I would very much like to know the name of the ad agency involved and, most importantly, the names of the composer and performer of the music, the name of the musical score and where it might be available.

Michael W. Hall

Ennis, Texas

The ad, called "Comfort," is from Ketchum Advertising, Los Angeles. The original music was created and performed by Jonathan Elias of Elias Associates, New York and Los Angeles.

Good `suits' nurture ideas

I realize that "Jabberwocky" is intended to add a bit of levity to our business. However, at the risk of appearing to be an overreacting suit, the "When Account Executives Dream" strip (AA, Feb. 14) is simply not true for many of us. The best account people in this business never dream of standing before the agency and barking out orders.

Developing, nurturing and producing ideas that both build a brand and end up in award-show books take a huge amount of hard work and respect by everyone who works on a campaign. Never has it been true in this business that one person alone does anything, let alone one account person. The account people worth their suits these days are the ones who can recognize a good idea and help it come to life.

As for the ones portrayed in your cartoon-sadly, they do exist. If you asked to see their books and reels, I doubt you'd see any truly great work.

Eddie Binder

Senior VP-dir. of client services

Leonard Monahan Lubars & Kelly

Providence, R.I.

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