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Outgoing 4As Chairman Blasts WPP's Sorrell

Ron Berger Also Comes Out Swinging Against Jack Klues, Bob Liodice

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In a bare-knuckles speech opening the 4As conference, Ron Berger slapped down prominent industry figures.
Mr. Berger also had a few choice words to say about TV networks.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AdAge.com) -- Outgoing 4A's Chairman Ron Berger jump-started the annual gathering of ad agency managers with a wide-ranging broadside that slapped down prominent industry figures like Martin Sorrell, Bob Liodice and Jack Klues.

In a speech given at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' management conference, Mr. Berger delivered his thoughts on how the ad business could improve, swiping the CEO of advertising's second-largest company, one of advertising's most innovative media thinkers, and the leader of the business' largest and most influential client association.

More John Wrens, less Martin Sorrells
"I think our industry would be better if we had more holding company CEOs like [Omnicom Group President-CEO] John Wren and less like [WPP Group Chief Executive] Martin Sorrell," he said. "John's understanding and respect for his own brands, the work and his people, shows you can run a public company that pleases more than just shareholders and analysts. John is unique, and we need more like him."

What's sure to be known as Mr. Berger's "I think our business could be better if..." speech offered an unusually rousing start for a conference that typically has all of the contentiousness of a Scotch following a round of golf. The address comes as Madison Avenue has been taking hits in recent years from the press as well as from marketers and other agencies.

Mr. Berger, CEO-chief creative officer at Havas' Euro RSCG Worldwide, New York, criticized Mr. Liodice, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, for a recently published quote in which he questioned why any advertiser would only work with a single agency. Mr. Berger's retort: "Because, Bob, the answer is obvious: Can you think of a single brand that has been better off over the last 10 years using multiple agencies? I can't." (He cited Macy's and Sony as evidence that the multiple-agency model doesn't work, and Volvo, FedEx and Nike as examples that a single agency of record-style relationship works better.)

Media agency debate
Mr. Berger also took on Mr. Klues' recent public assertion that shifting media planning departments back into creative agencies would be akin to going back to the 1980s. (Mr. Klues is Publicis Media Group's CEO.)

He said: "Jack, not a single person I know of in any agency is suggesting that media go back to where it was in the '80s. But, as we all know, our client's needs are changing, and what they need first and foremost is for all of us to be looking forward and not backwards for smart and new solutions."

It was a barnstormer of a speech, clearly designed to settle some scores. At one point Mr. Berger even took a shot at the TV networks, calling them "arrogant," and suggesting they don't "give back" enough to the business, especially compared to online media giants Google and Yahoo. Both regularly sponsor industry gatherings like this.

Trade magazines, as usual, came under fire too. Their offense? Not knowing the business. "I think our industry would be better," Mr. Berger said, "if some of the people who write about our industry had a deeper understanding of it."

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