Kevin Roberts

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In a colorful and contrarian speech at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' annual conference, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts took shots at other event speakers, conventional wisdom and even his parent company.

The speech chronicled the industry's crisis of confidence and offered a no-holds-barred view of what needs to be fixed.

"We slide into executional irrelevance. We've been marginalized by middle management, the abominable no-man-we're surrounded by them," said Mr. Roberts.

On the talent front, he added, "we've been sideswiped by Microsoft and McKinsey." He said the agency business is full of B-list players and needs to recruit better talent to return to a role as "go-to people" for clients.

Mr. Roberts screened various award-winning TV spots, including one from Australia in which a convicted killer says that drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents are as guilty of murder as he is. TV, Mr. Roberts said, is the dominant medium and the best for storytelling, and creativity should be judged by whether viewers want to see ads over and over again.

Taking on other popular current viewpoints, he said creative agencies rather than media shops should drive the communi-cations process, and that integrated marketing is overrated. "If I hear the word `touchpoints' or `holistic' one more time, I'm going to throw up," he said, to laughter from the audience.

The remark seemed a thinly veiled shot at Maurice Levy, chairman-CEO of Publicis Groupe, parent to Saatchi & Saatchi. Mr. Levy has positioned his company's Publicis agency network around an integrated, or, in his words, "holistic" offering.

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