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O. Burtch Drake this week assumes one of the hardest jobs in advertising.

As the new president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Mr. Drake, 52, is responsible for strengthening both the organization, which has seen membership shrink in the past five years, and an industry that's reeling from restructurings, cutbacks in client spending and a staggering loss of respect.

In addition to continuing the association's longstanding battle against governmental regulation of advertising, Mr. Drake said he wants to bolster agencies' value to marketers and encourage them to demand fairer compensation.

"I don't think our members are getting paid what they should be for what they do," Mr. Drake said. "They give away way too much up front in speculative creative and strategic thinking. The pendulum has really swung too far on the compensation front, and I think some clients have forgotten how important advertising agencies are to their brands."

Collecting "royalties" on creative work, in the vein of the music, publishing and film businesses, is one way in which agencies could bolster their bottom lines and perceived value.

"Ours is the only creative business that doesn't collect royalties on its work," Mr. Drake said, noting that doing so would communicate that agency products are "tremendous and last over a long period."

"You'll hear more from the Four A's on this subject" at the organization's February board meeting, he said.

Mr. Drake, a former president of Foote, Cone & Belding/Europe, London, joined the Four A's as exec VP-chief operating officer in 1989. As president, he succeeds John O'Toole, who has led the association since that year. Mr. O'Toole is retiring from the industry and plans to divide his time between homes in Scotts dale, Ariz., and Cape Cod.

Mr. Drake's appointment follows a three-month search for a successor. He was considered a contender for the job from the start.

"These are tough times. We know where he stands on issues," said Edward Wax, chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising World wide and Four A's vice chairman.

Mr. Wax, who was involved in the search, said Mr. Drake "benefited from having been in the No. 2 job," a post he plans to eliminate.

Said Andrew Langer, ceo of Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, and a director at large for the Four A's: "He's got to help agencies transition from what advertising agencies were to what agencies will be. [The Four A's] can let other agencies know what's successful and what's forward-thinking. It's a very difficult position to be in."

Mr. Drake also has to take steps to increase the association's fortunes.

Four A's membership has dropped by roughly 13%, to 650 members, since Mr. O'Toole was installed as president. To help bolster revenue, the association last year approved a bylaw allowing annual membership dues increases of 2.5%. That decision rescinded a plan to increase dues 7% this year.

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