Strategic Thinking

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Madison Avenue lost its status as top confidant to client CEOs by thinking small even as the agencies were getting big, says Steven J. Heyer, president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Co.'s Coca-Cola Ventures.

Ad agency significance suffered during the past 30 years as consultants and investment bankers began giving client chiefs the insight that agencies once provided, Mr. Heyer said during a luncheon at AdWatch. The situation is exacerbated by the ad world's preoccupation with breakthough creative instead of cutting-edge strategy, he said.

"Once upon a time, agencies were the most valued partner a CEO could have," said Mr. Heyer. But he said agencies, by defining their contributions too narrowly as advertising rather than marketing, were usurped by others. Mr. Heyer called on agencies to offer more value by putting a bigger investment in strategy, integration and media.

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