"Welcome to Vegas!" chirped a pregnant Emma Cookson, looking like a beautiful earth mother in floppy sandals and maternity blouse on stage in the Palace Ballroom at Caesar's Palace. Emma is chief planner at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York. She was also the co-chair of this year's Account Planning Conference in Las Vegas, along with David Hackworthy, chief account planner at TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York. Two years ago, the annual event was blasted in the consumer press as a gathering of highly paid and coddled navel-gazers.
Because of that, Emma and David refocused the show. This year the theme was communication and accountability, a particularly relevant one as the economy began to tank. David, in his introductory speech, said "agencies are forced to justify what we do. How do we contribute to a client's success? What do we want to take responsibility for?"
One of the highlights was a rousing, inspired presentation by Lee Clow about how the most successful brands, in the end, are always connected to inspired human beings, such as Richard Branson and Virgin and Steve Jobs and Apple. After his uplifting exhortation, and several others that emphasized the "soul" of the brand, the next speaker bravely threw cold water on the group.
Rishad Tobaccowala, media guru at Starcom MediaVest Group, said in the real world, clients are increasingly asking for media solutions before branding solutions. "I'm not saying it's right that it's going this way," Rishad said. "Face reality, media specialists are here and we are not going back. It's not because we're so smart, it's just because things are getting so complicated out there." When Rishad was done, you could hear a pin drop. In fact, he was hustled out quickly in order to accommodate the next speaker, Bill Clinton's former aide-de-camp Paul Begala, who entertained the group with Monica Lewinsky jokes while pointing out the incredible similarities between campaigning for a politician and for a bottle of Coke.
By the way, Adages apologizes for misidentifying the Account Planning Group as the Advertising Planning Group and the conference as a media planning event in last week's column. Viva Las Vegas!
A recent exchange between Rick Boyko, chief creative officer, North America at Ogilvy & Mather, Lee Clow and Tom Carroll of TBWA/Chiat/Day and Rich Russo, chief creative officer of Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, shows a kinder, gentler side of the cutthroat business of winning reviews. On Friday the 13th, the day after Ogilvy won the $400 million AT&T Wireless account over TBWA/Chiat/Day and FCB, Boyko and colleagues received two bottles of champagne. One came from Russo, who when he worked at Ogilvy was Boyko's partner; the other came from Clow and Carroll, former colleagues of Boyko at Chiat/Day. Russo's note read: "I would have called to say congrats, but my AT&T cell phone doesn't work." The other note: "Congratulations, shit. Love, Lee and Tom."
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo and Lisa Sanders
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