FCC LIGHTS UP A REAL PROBLEM

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The federal communications Commission has done a service to the ad business by putting a spotlight on ad buying practices that give short shrift to the marketplace value of minority audiences and minority media. Equally important, however, is the FCC's decision not to recommend government regulation of the huge U.S. media market to "fix" this problem, a step that would hinder, not help, progress on this issue.

No marketer can afford to be blind to profitable business in this country's large minority communities. So none should dismiss the report prepared for the FCC by the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy. It relates how minority media executives encounter media planners and buyers who cling to outdated notions about minority consumers (i.e., "Black people don't eat beef"), "no Urban" and "no Hispanic" fiats that bar ad placements in minority media and a marketplace where minority media feel compelled to sell their time and space at a deep discount to the rates charged by general-market media.

To their credit, many top advertiser and agency executives and association leaders have shown genuine goodwill in facing these issues. Hopefully, they see the need to root out the lazy thinking that keeps marketers from accurately evaluating these opportunities.

Every advertiser will jealously guard the right to spend its advertising dollars where it feels they will have the maximum payoff. That means regulatory solutions-even voluntary codes-that seem to impose someone else's judgment about how this should be done, or suggest some sort of quota system, will be resisted. But it's fair to ask advertisers and media buyers to promptly examine their systems for evaluating minority markets and minority media, and report to their shareholders-and the public-on the steps they've taken to see that no market is ignored or devalued as a result of ignorance or prejudice. This is a case where self-interest and the public interest come together.

Deutsch is it

The news that Jordan McGrath Case & Partners is finally giving in and selling itself (to Euro RSCG Worldwide) makes our choice this week of Deutsch as Agency of the Year all the more notable. The conventional wisdom, in this time of globalization and consolidation, says continued success is impossible for agencies that don't have global networks and deep-pocketed parents.

The conventional wisdom is largely right. Deutsch just lost its L.A. Cellular account not because of weak work (the agency's humorous spots touting everyday cell-phone uses were wonderful) but because the telecommunications marketer was swallowed up by AT&T Corp. The account went to Foote, Cone & Belding, which boasts global distribution capabilities and a protective parent company.

Such setbacks pale in comparison to Deutsch's achievements in recent years and, in particular, in 1998. It achieved success on the West Coast, rare for New York transplants; it picked up a national car account. Billings and gross income grew explosively; creative stayed sharp. And, by adding media, interactive and direct-marketing skills, it now can offer clients much more than nice print and TV ads. Perhaps most important in terms of long-term growth, Deutsch's success is the product of a team of partners and no longer depends on one man.

How much longer Deutsch can resist cashing in is anyone's guess. A sale of the agency somewhere down the road seems inevitable, although Donny Deutsch is only 40 and says he's in no rush to accept an offer. For now, we celebrate this agency's defining year and its accomplishments as one of the last great

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