LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Overdue Whopper idea

Remember Tab and Like? They were the soda brands created when beverage companies thought they needed a separate brand for diet sodas. Eventually, they learned that people make a choice between regular and diet sodas, but don't necessarily want to change brands.

I think Burger King has figured out a similar choice is being made between beef and chicken. Their "introduction" of the Chicken Whopper (formerly BK Broiler) is a brilliant, overdue brand extension.

Eric Riback

Charlottesville, Va.

Working at N.W. Ayer a highlight of a career

It is with great sorrow that I read of the passing of N.W. Ayer. Twenty years ago, Ayer took a chance on an eager-but-very-green ad person to work on the U.S. Army account. It was a time I will forever remember.

If Ayer was not at its pinnacle then, it was close. It had 1,300 people with nearly $1 billion in billings. Braniff Airlines, 7Up, Breyers ice cream, White Rain shampoo, AT&T, GM, DeBeer's, DuPont Silverstone and the U.S. Army. Powerful brands. Memorable work. It was buttoned down but still loose, strategic and timeless: Be All You Can Be, Reach Out and Touch Someone, Feelin' 7Up.

What impressed me most about Ayer was its people. They had a corporate mantra, "Ayer Makes Human Contact," and in the offices of any location one could find signs reading "To Ayer is Human." Led by Lou Hagopian, Jerry Siano and Patrick Cunningham, it truly described the corporate culture.

Like a person with a terminal illness, it was sad to see what was once strong and vibrant deteriorate into a barely self-sustaining entity. They were ferociously proud of being the country's oldest agency, and at 133 Ayer can be proud of living a long and fruitful life.

I will certainly remember working for N.W. Ayer as a highlight of my career. Its legacy will endure.

Kenn Olson

VP-Foodservice Marketing

Wisconsin Milk

Marketing Board

Madison, Wis.

Food Group brought brands to food service

"Schrijver looks to whip up some magic in WPP kitchen" (AA, March 4), about Robert Schrijver assuming the role of CEO at the Food Group, was of particular interest. With Mr. Schrijver's experience and background, he should certainly lead the Food Group in new directions and growth. What wasn't mentioned was its 25-year history.

Don Axleroad, the company founder, and his food marketers created a new environment and a new approach to marketing and advertising to huge food-service chains, restaurants, hotels and institutional feeders. As a one-time competitor of mine, I'm reminded that Don was the first to recognize the importance of branding to these industries.

Great consumer names, such as Heinz, Nabisco (Grey Poupon, Oreo, etc.) Seagram and dozens of others grew their product lines into food service through the Food Group. The big consumer companies initially did not grasp the importance of the branding concept as it related to chefs, restaurant managers and corporate executives. Don Axleroad was instrumental in seeing the potential of consumer brands in the foodservice market.

Good luck to Bob Schrijver. I hope he maintains an open mind and will accept the wisdom and experience of Don and his people. To go from $0 billing to $90 million in a marketplace, without national consumer magazines and broadcast, will be a tough act to follow.

Ira Brichta

Ira Brichta Marketing

North Palm Beach, Fla.

Social responsibility as `strategic' philanthropy

In "Do good and do well" (Letters, AA, April 1), Mark S. Robinson takes issue with my statement in an earlier letter ("Altruism has its costs unless it helps profits," Letters, AA, Feb. 25). I wrote in that letter, "Only when corporate philanthropy enhances profits via its public-relations value is it ethically justifiable as a win-win situation." Mr. Robinson discusses how companies involved with corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities score well with groups such as investors, government regulators and employees.

That was exactly my point. By "public-relations value," I meant CSR efforts should only be undertaken when it is anticipated they can enhance the value of the firm via communication with and involvement of the firm's various constituencies, such as customers, employees, suppliers and others. In other words, CSR is only ethically justified when used as strategic philanthropy. Otherwise, it is violating the firm's stewardship to stockholders, who expect the maximum possible return on their funds.

While we college professors don't have to turn a profit to survive, as Mr. Robinson notes, I firmly believe it is a business organization's duty to its shareholders to do so. If CSR is undertaken for reasons other than expected profitability (e.g., to soothe an executive's guilt over earning "exorbitant" compensation or to get an appearance on the evening news), then it is immoral.

Geoffrey P. Lantos

Prof. of Business Administration

Stonehill College

North Easton, Mass.

Prof. Lantos has written "The Boundaries of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility" and "The Ethicality of Corporate Social Responsibility," which were published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing.

Corrections

* In "Shake-up at Omnicom" (April 15, P. 1), it was incorrectly stated that Omnicom Group and InterpubIic Group of Cos. each will have 11-member boards after Omnicom's board downsizing. Omnicom will have 11, but Interpublic has nine (seven outsiders, two insiders).

* In the table "Magazine ad page leaders" (April 15, P. 12), the first-quarter 2002 ad-page and ad-revenue data for Golf Magazine were later corrected by Publishers Information Bureau. The revised data credit Golf Magazine with 322.2 ad pages for the quarter, down 11.1% from a year ago, and ad revenue of $34.2 million, up 26.9%.

* In "The Buzz" (MediaWorks, April 15, P. 39), it was incorrectly stated that ALF appears in ads for MCI's 1-800 Collect service. ALF appears in ads for MCI's 10-10-220 calling plan.

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