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I read the editorial "When no is right answer" (Viewpoint, AA, Feb. 24) with great interest. While it may or may not be true that Pfizer's attempts to re-negotiate with its agencies "pushes the boundaries of accepted practice," I think agencies should see this incident as a wakeup call for improving how they do business with clients.

In the course of our engagements, where we are tasked with optimizing vendor/agency/client relationships, we have seen agency billings way out of line with the services delivered. Such inequity usually occurs when agencies venture into services outside their core competencies, such as database and interactive marketing. Without the necessary knowledge, skills and experience, these agencies create inefficiencies that drive up costs and timetables. To hide their mismanagement, such far-afield firms routinely use blended rates, vague statements of work and fuzzy relationships with third-party vendors to mark up charges, hide inefficiencies and increase billings. The result can be enormous project costs, high expectations and minimal performance.

Deutsch, and every other agency working with Pfizer, has every right to walk away from a client they feel is inflicting unreasonable conditions on an engagement. Pfizer also has a right to examine its agency relationships to see just where its money is going. Pfizer has the right to ask whether it's paying for high-cost creative talent, labor-intensive talent or just a lot of "talent."

I think Pfizer knows very well "you get what you pay for." Pfizer just wants to know what it is buying!

David Bernard

Managing Director

DB Marketing Technologies

New York

Has the Coke brand hit `escape velocity'?

According to Coca-Cola Co. President Steven Heyer, entertainment marketers might soon be paying for value-added association with Coke because its earnings, exposure and image are so overwhelming that the brand's very size makes it a de facto marketing channel ("Heyer's calling: collaborate or die," AA, Feb. 10). Since many U.S. businesses are entertainment-driven, other industries won't lag far behind.

Mr. Heyer says that, because of the current marketplace chaos coupled with the crushing dominance of the Coca-Cola brand (more than 2 billion "communication opportunities every day in the U.S. alone!"), Coke is no longer just a dose of sugared, carbonated water but a full-fledged mass medium. So it has the same right as any other media vehicle to charge for messages it sends the public.

Coke has reached reach-and-frequency saturation, outstripping the need for any medium other than its own existence. Escape velocity as applied to branding. Or perhaps "critical mass" is the better analogy. Either way, Coke apparently feels ready to reconfigure the advertiser-agency-medium triad-pioneers on the final frontier of marketing.

How big can Coke get? Following Mr. Heyer's greed-is-good logic, the sky's the limit-and then some.

Someone should remind Mr. Heyer of Coke's history with New Coke cyber-spokesperson Max Headroom. The series featuring Max depicted a world ruled by powerful corporations locked in ruthless competition for consumer dollars. It also posed questions about unethical and cynical exploitation of advertising and the quest for brand dominance.

Talk about life imitating art!

Robert Passikoff


Brand Keys

New York

A simple rescue plan for the 30-second spot

What would save the 30-second commercial? Are you ready? Make people think twice about flipping the channel. Problem solved. It's no more or less complicated than giving people a reason to watch. Or read. Or listen. Yes, we are business people. But we are also entertainers.

There are volumes of brands that are thriving despite the so-called demise of advertising. Look around. Nike. Volkswagen. FedEx. IBM. BMW. The common denominator (besides the given of a great product) is that they do every day what other marketers attempt to do just for the Super Bowl.

Maybe our industry is headed toward superimposed logos on football fields, or a big wink and a smile from Jack as he slurps down a Coca-Cola during an episode of "Will and Grace." Wherever it's going, we ourselves are taking it there. We are to blame if our roles are diminished and we are to be praised if the biz takes off. To be remembered, we have to be memorable. To impress consumers, we have to make an impression. How simple, yet how difficult.

Erik Proulx




Bozell is still alive and well in Omaha

Many people in the ad industry jumped to the conclusion that Lowe Worldwide's takeover of Bozell, New York, signaled the end of the Bozell brand ("Bozell name dropped in merger with Lowe," Late News, AA, Feb. 17). Nothing could be further from the truth. ...

The most exciting part of the never-ending Bozell story is that Bozell & Jacobs is thriving, once again headquartered in Omaha, where it all began, and independent and employee-owned, just as its founders intended.

Scott Moore


Bozell & Jacobs



* In "Lack of financial know-how led to Dooner's downfall" (March 3, P. 1), it was incorrectly stated that John J. Dooner Jr. became chairman-CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos. on Dec. 15, 2001. He became chairman-CEO on Dec. 15, 2000.

* In "Advertisers flock to SNTA conference" (March 3, P. 6), the "Sharon Osbourne Show" was incorrectly identified as a Paramount Television Group production. It is produced by Telepictures Productions and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

* In "Rednor Gunderson consultancy set up" (The Week, Feb. 24, P. 17), the Gunderson name was misspelled. It is Gundersen.

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