ROTH: GET HELP BEFORE RELATIONSHIP HITS SKIDS

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Consultant Richard Roth has a message for clients contemplating an agency review: "Do it as a last resort, and then do it as if it's forever."

Mr. Roth, who founded Chappaqua, N.Y.-based Richard Roth Associates eight years ago, should know. Late last year, he took on the controversial $180 million review for Burger King Corp., a company criticized for flipping agencies as fast as, well, you know.

He isn't seeing the review through to the end, however. This month, Burger King CEO Jim Adamson abruptly took the review, entering its final stage, into his own hands. It was an odd time for a consultant to step out of an agency search, but Mr. Roth maintained his contract with the tempestuous fast-food giant was coming to a close.

Mr. Roth is said to have hoped that a successful Burger King review would secure his position as a premier consultant, but things took a drastically different turn when Burger King marketing chief Sidney Feltenstein was fired midway through the process.

Mr. Roth, 55, declined to discuss the Burger King review specifically but, like many other consultants, said he prefers to be called in to help improve agency-client relations before tensions erupt into a review. Once that happens, however, a consultant's role is essential, he said.

"In personal relationships, you can't hire a consultant, but in professional ones you can," he said. "The reason not to rush and find a new agency is what assurance is there that the new one is going to be that much better than the first? It's like someone who gets divorced and, on the rebound, picks out his or her next spouse, who's just the same as the first."

Mr. Roth has seen his share of reviews: He spent 25 years in the agency business-the first 10 at Grey Advertising, New York, and the remaining 15 as an exec VP at the former Scali, McCabe, Sloves.

As a consultant, his clients have included G. Heileman Brewing Co. and Ocean Spray Cranberries.

"I felt I could help the business more as a consultant than by being in it," Mr. Roth said, adding that he believes agencies will eventually start hiring their own consultants to help them deal with clients, particularly when negotiating compensation.

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