4As Conference Gets Under Way in California

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DANA POINT, Calif. ( -- As advertising executives from around the country arrive at this Pacific Coast
Photo: Doug Goodman
A surfer off the Ritz-Carlton beach late Wednesday.
resort for the annual 4As Management Conference, they couldn't wish for a more beautiful scene.

From virtually every vantage point, visitors at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in California feast on wonderful vistas from swimmers romping in the Pacific's frothy surf to the outline of the cliffs against a bright blue sky.

'Reasonably good spirits'
Just hours before Wednesday's "Looking Ahead"-themed conference began, attendees were eagerly anticipating this year's message.

"Everyone is in reasonably good spirits," said O. Burtch Drake, 4As president-CEO, "considering the state of the [advertising] industry."

Last year was one of the worst in the industry's history, from a financial perspective. Marketing communications professionals nationwide are eager to put that behind them. John F. P. Farrell, president-CEO

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of Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, said, "It will be interesteing to see how the industry delivers on this theme, 'Looking Forward,' over the coming year. There's been a lot of change in the industry."

Certainly his agency is in the midst of tremenduous alteration, as its parent, Bcom3 Group, prepares for a merger with Publicis Groupe.

All eyes on finances
An area of keen interest here, not surprisingly, is finances. Riding into Dana Point, Calif., with an reporter, Stuart Zolot, executive vice president and chief financial officer of MARC USA, described his reason for traveling from Pittsburgh to the West Coast: "What's the temperature on the street, financially? I think everyone's going through similar problems, but it appears the economy is starting to turn around."

Another topic subject to much buzz was multicultural advertising efforts. Representatives of Hispanic agencies noted a uptick in marketers looking for new advertising agencies. General agencies, however, reported a

Photo: Doug Goodman
Aromatic garden paths climb from the beach toward the hotel.
virtual halt to agency searches.

Overall, optimism over a quick rebound in the economy by the third or fourth quarter of this year was in short supply. "It isn't happening," said Wenda Harris Millard, chief sales officer of Yahoo!

New officers
At 4 p.m., the Pacific Promenade room was packed as the 4A Business Session began and official business got under way with the election of news officers.

Ken Kaess, president-CEO of Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, was named the 4As new chairman, succeeding Brendan Ryan, CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide.

In other executive changes for the 2002-03 term, James R. Heekin, chairman and CEO of Interpublic's McCann Erickson WorldGroup, becomes 4As vice chairman, and Marsha Lindsay, president-CEO, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs Advertising, Madison, Wis., takes a second term as secretary treasurer.

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Alice Z. Cuneo contributed to this report.

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