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BOCA RATON, Fla.-The annual Association of National Advertisers conference served attendees a heavy diet of politics, internal and external.

The conference started with a members-and-wives-only day that quickly became a controversy over exclusionary politics. Only 22% of the 500 attendees were members, and many non-members were unhappy about being locked out of Saturday's events, which included a dinner speech by Ted Turner. Even ad agency CEOs Donny Deutsch (Deutsch, New York), Ralph Rydholm (Tatham Euro RSCG) and Burt Manning (J. Walter Thompson Worldwide), who participated as speakers Saturday afternoon, weren't allowed into the dinner.

Media company employees, including reporters, also were miffed by the exclusion, especially since many of their employers spent money to sponsor the conference. Wall Street Journal reporter Kevin Goldman chose not to attend when he learned he was not welcome on Saturday.

Mr. Goldman said he respected but disagreed with the ANA's decision to bar reporters.

"It wasn't a protest, it was a business decision," he said. "I felt the Saturday sessions and the Ted Turner dinner were the only things that would interest Wall Street Journal readers. I did not want to spend the Journal's money on something I didn't think would be a good return on investment."

ANA President-CEO John Sarsen said members had requested a day of private sessions; honoring that request brought a 20% hike in member attendance.

The politics of agency-client relations served as the main topic of the members-only session and featured a debate between the agency CEOs and advertising chiefs Philip Guarascio (General Motors Corp.), Abby Kohnstamm (IBM Corp.), Gary Moss (Campbell Soup Co.) and David Wheldon (Coca-Cola Co.).

Though spirited, the debate put few new ideas on the table, audience members said. "It was the same old stuff," said one. "Agencies say they don't get paid enough, and the clients say, `Get used to it.'*"

The next two days included several sessions on politics, including appearances by Michael Kinsley of "Crossfire," pollster Richard Wirthlin and former presidential-campaign adviser Roger Ailes.

Mr. Wirthlin warned a mostly Republican audience about being overconfident in 1996. "I've never met a man who can work a room as well-or as consistently-as Bill Clinton. Republicans will make a huge mistake if they underestimate Clinton's chances," he said.

There were also presentations on marketing turnarounds at Quaker State Corp., Brunswick Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Quaker State CEO Herbert Baum said the company's Q-Lube oil-change stores offer an upgraded service for sport-utility vehicles that costs drivers $5 more but only costs Quaker State $1.50 more in ingredients. Two minutes later he said, "We don't sell [customers] something they don't need."

Brunswick CEO Peter Larson said effective marketing can counter the effects of business cycles. "It requires getting to know your customer better," he said, "so you can respond to cycles in their attitudes with changes to your marketing plans." But he wouldn't give specific examples, saying, "I'm not interested in teaching my competition. Call me in a year."

A panel on TV violence generated lively discussion, while a panel on the creative process was poorly attended and spiritless.

In other news:

ANA awarded James Speros, director-corporate advertising & brand management for AT&T Corp., the Robert V. Goldstein Award for his work on an ad campaign against underage drinking.

Richard Costello, manager-corporate marketing communications for General Electric Co., took over as ANA chairman from Janet Soderstrom, senior VP-advertising/marketing services, Visa USA.

In a poll of ANA members, nearly 90% of those surveyed said their relationships with their primary ad agencies are good or excellent, with better than one in three choosing excellent.

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