Several other people deserve credit, too. Or a share of the blame if that's the side of the fence you're on.
It was Arnie Blum, as group creative director on the Coke account, who brought a videotape of the original Max Headroom show from British TV into my office late one night as a possible idea for our client. (Interestingly, he had been given the tape by Phil Slott, a former colleague of his at BBDO.)
Realizing that the last instructions given us by our client, Sergio Zyman, were to "disregard all previous instructions," I gave Arnie the go-ahead on Max, albeit with a degree of trepidation, and suggested he work with Paul and Arthur Vibert, an inventive young art director.
The collaboration of this small creative group-Arnie, Paul, Arthur and myself, plus Sergio-resulted in some on-target, talked-about advertising. The last of that particular variety of advertising from Coke, by the way, until the arrival of Peter Sealey and Michael Ovitz and the eventual re-emergence of Sergio himself.
Curvin O'Rielly Inc.
In the second paragraph of "Benetton, German retailers squabble" (AA, Feb. 6) the writers state that we are suing several retailers for non-payment of merchandise and franchise fees. The latter assertion is incorrect, as we are not a franchise. This point is an absolutely crucial one, as it is precisely the free nature of our agreement with our clients, the shops, that accounts for the discrepancy in the way some stores in Germany are doing vis-a-vis others.
We do not take royalties from our licensees; we do not impose a particular choice of the collection on them (they each choose the garments they want to sell); we do not impose a sales strategy (they choose their own sales staffs, sales programs, etc.); we do not impose a special look on the shops other than the actual shop fittings (they each do their own windows, etc.). It is therefore a very entrepreneurial system, the success of which depends on many variables, not least business sense. It is clear that in a situation of severe textile recession, some shops will fare better than others.
Hence our stable volume of sales for Germany in 1994, despite IGB's claims of losses of up to 30%. To blame individual retail problems on a global advertising campaign is therefore absolutely preposterous.
Lastly, it is not true that the clients are countersuing. They are using the alleged counterclaims of damages incurred through the advertising as a plea not to have to pay their debt to us (which consists only of unpaid merchandise).
Incidentally, during the 1992 "reality campaign," featuring AIDS activist David Kirby on his deathbed, sales in Germany reached record highs.
Communication & Press
Benetton Group SpA
Ponzano Veneto, Italy
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