McCann hosts global meeting to shape future

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BERLIN--McCann-Erickson Worldwide has the week of April 17 brought around 150 of its brightest executives from across the globe to Berlin to share ideas that will help shape the agency's future.

The three-day event -- dramatically staged in an aircraft hangar at Tempelhof -- is designed to provoke creative thought and the cross-fertilization of ideas. The initiative is part of a broader attempt by Chief Strategy Officer Lee Daley to encourage and nurture "constant creativity and innovation" from every part of the McCann network. The aim, he says, is "not to step outside the box, but to recognize that within McCann there is no box."

"Now is a time of great social and technological change," the newlyinstalled Regional Director-Europe Middle East & Africa Don Dillon told McCann staffers and the several clients present on the first day of the event, April 18. "Things are changing so fast it's as if the car, the telephone and the television were all invented on the same day. He added: "To be the best, we must have thought leadership ... actively seeking knowledge and market advantage ... [and] developing a 'creating' agency."

Joey Reiman, CEO of "ideation" consultancy BrightHouse, Atlanta, who privately declared McCann "brave" to have invited him at all, challenged the traditional agency's way of working. It was crazy to charge a client for account servicing and yet give away ideas for free, he said. Agencies of the future, he argued, would either have to be idea hot-houses or service machines.

Not all clients agree. "Agencies have to be agnostic about media choice, but the ideal is still to have a single partner [in whose] team are outstanding idea generators and outstanding managers and implementers," says Michael Brockbank, VP-worldwide advertising at Unilever and an attendee of the event. "A group which has the idea has a better chance of really championing it than one that takes an idea over at a later stage."

Mr. Brockbank applauded McCann's efforts to change. "What's great [about this event] is that ideas come first," he says. "Media diffusion means an agency's raison d'etre is brand ideas and communication ideas. The biggest danger, as a client, is the [agency notion] that the product is a healthy relationship, rather than relevant

Copyright April 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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