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Ad agency acquisitions, mergers and consolidations have come and gone. Like marriages between people, they sometimes succeed greatly and, sometimes, they fail. Some of those failures have led to disastrous divorces. And when that happens, it's probably because the "children" weren't taken into account.

By children, we mean clients. They are what the agency business revolves around, after all, and it's encouraging to see how France's Publicis Communication

and Chicago-based True North Communications have agreed to take them into account as they plan their split.

This breakup will be a gradual one that takes as its starting point how clients want the divorce to happen. That's not always been the case, which is why this business divorce deserves attention. At the former Saatchi & Saatchi Co., client needs at times went by the wayside. Were Ted Bates Worldwide clients foremost in mind when Saatchi teamed Bates with Backer & Spielvogel to start its downsizing?

In that case, eventually, a couple of major clients spoke up with a "Wait a minute; what about me?" In the Publicis/True North case, it was client Nestle that cleared its throat and made Publicis and True North take notice. What we applaud is their response.

"We're keeping the clients first, as it should be," said an executive involved, "while recognizing that long term, Publicis and FCB aren't going to be partners."

At an unhappy moment for two proud organizations, that's clear-headed thinking.

Saving Apple

There are so many questions about Apple Computer today. Will CEO Gil Amelio keep his job? Why? Will Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, back now as an adviser, take control? Will Apple do the impossible and design and deliver by mid-'98 an operating system better than anything from Microsoft's Windows? Will the new software be compatible with old Macs?

The real question for Apple, its marketing executives

and its ad agency is how to convince anyone to buy a computer-today-from a company whose future is so uncertain. Why go with Apple, whose market share has crashed to 5%, in a world where Windows is the near-universal standard? Even Mr. Jobs says you'd have to "squint your eyes" to see where today's Macintosh is superior to Windows-equipped machines.

Apple's best, and most under-exploited, remaining asset is the brand. So one idea Apple, or some takeover artist, should consider is this: Put Apple's name on a line of Windows PCs. That line, backed by Apple's reputation for design, quality and service, could do wonders to rebuild the franchise in homes and schools.

Apple could build on the current Mac platform for professional customers, much as Sony kept Beta around for professionals long after it gave up on Betamax VCRs and started selling VHS machines for the masses.

Apple's pragmatic new marketing chief, Guerrino De Luca, built the company's Claris software division by pushing forcefully into the Windows market. We also note that Apple just paid $430 million for Mr. Jobs' floundering Next Software as the basis to build a new operating system. But the operating system war is over. Windows won.

Now Apple should take its great brand and run . . . Windows. That's a brand combination a lot of consumers would buy.

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