Kodak chief tells advertisers to empower agencies

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George M.C. Fisher, chairman-president-CEO of Eastman Kodak Co., delivering the keynote address Thursday morning at the American Association of Advertising Agencies conference in Indian Wells, Calif., called on advertisers to "turn your agencies loose. Empower them and let them do what they do best." Mr. Fisher said while Kodak's decision to pare its agency roster from 177 to four shops will save the company as much as $20 million per year, it was not a financial move but a creative one that speeds decision-making and leads to consistent brand messages.

He also said Kodak will "give our agencies every year an R&D budget to experiment, to discover and to innovate without any strings attached." He didn't disclose the size of the budgets, but Kodak Chief Marketing Officer Carl Gustin told Advertising Age after the speech it will total several million dollars across the Kodak agencies.

Mr. Fisher also spoke about the impact of new-media on the ad business, bringing full circle the discussion started two years ago by then Procter & Gamble CEO Edwin Artzt. The question now, he said, is not "Do we play?" but "How do we play?"

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