What I went on to discuss in my speech was the fusing of content and contacts, not simply the coming together of the organizations that house these disciplines. Did my statement have implications to organization structures? Yes, it did. But it was only a sub-point to the larger topic, which was about the creative process.
Most recently, Ad Age referenced last year's speech once again to suggest I was advocating the reunification of the creative and media agencies ("Debate on planning's return dominates London ad chatter," Viewpoint, AA, Jan. 27).
Let me be clear: My comment was not a question about bundled vs. unbundled organizational structures. At Starcom, just like many of our competitors, we work with partner companies in our network as well as agencies outside our corporate families based on the desires of the clients. I was not advocating either model, merely hypothesizing and suggesting a need for a new alternative.
I do not think the strategic alignment of message and medium is driven by or dependent upon the physical proximity of practitioners or their placement under one corporate umbrella. This idea is underwhelming, at best, and detrimental to the media discipline at worst. In fact, assuming that media and creative need to ignite in the same room or even live under one roof is a low-voltage view of the creative process.
Let's not get swept away in a debate over bundled vs. unbundled. Most of the large media agencies operate under both structures. By remaining tethered to our creative partners through heritage and clients, yet operating under a separate management structure, media agencies have the ability to invest in the skills and resources critical to the success of our discipline. We only harm our industry when we engage in this tired debate over structure because it draws us away from discussing the real currency of our business-ideas. It's not our structure that makes us different from each other; it's the quality of ideas we deliver to our clients.
On that you can quote me.
Starcom North America
Pfizer: Did not seek personal salary data
Misleading stories abound about the end of Pfizer's relationship with Deutsch. Allow us to set the record straight.
Pfizer highly values its agency partners. They are the alchemists who turn our scientific data into motivating health information for consumers and other customers. However, we also have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that our sizeable investment in our agency partners is in line with the work done and with the rest of the industry. To that end, we have incorporated many of the best practices outlined in the Association of National Advertisers/American Association of Advertising Agencies "Guidelines for Effective Advertiser/Agency Compensation Agreements."
One of our first steps was to establish a common approach to evaluating compensation across agencies. As advocates of the pay for performance doctrine, we sought to ensure any differences were warranted by performance, not by accounting methodologies. In some cases, we offered to increase the stated profit margin of our agencies.
Contrary to press reports, there was never an issue over what information Pfizer requested from our agencies ("Pfizer slashes costs, weighs roster," AA, Feb. 17, and "When no is right answer," Viewpoint, AA, Feb. 24). We never required individual salaries. We simply sought to verify the information in accordance with the ANA/Four A's guidelines.
This can be done by "credible, qualified auditors, agreeable to both the advertiser and the agency," according to the guidelines. Recognizing the different preferences of our agency partners, we were even willing to accept verification by an agency's own auditor. In the case of Deutsch, unfortunately, we could not come to a satisfactory agreement on this process.
We are proud of the high quality work we did with Deutsch as well as the work we continue to do with our other roster agencies. We go to great lengths to insure agencies are treated fairly and are rewarded for exceptional work. While we have every confidence in our agencies, our fiduciary responsibility requires us to "trust, but verify."
ANA/Four A's offer help on agency pay
The critical issue of agency compensation is addressed in a productive manner by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers in "Guidelines for Effective Advertiser/Agency Compensation Agreements," published in December. It underscores the best compensation programs are simple to understand/administer; align adver- tiser agency priorities; match compensation with resources required; are fair to both parties; establish clear goals up front and do not favor one solution/service over another.
The guidelines address the issue of verifying agency salary information. There was extensive discussion about costs, with the ultimate understanding that advertisers will need to verify costs in some instances. There was agreement that, when doing so, the data being verified should be relevant to the compensation arrangement [and that] "if verifying the accuracy of individual salary information is a priority, the task force suggests verification be conducted on a confidential basis by a mutually agreed, independent auditor."
It is important to know fair-minded guidelines exist.
Robert L. Liodice
Association of National Advertisers