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Traditional advertising agencies should keep their eyes on another unexpected competitor in addition to the "upstream" marketing consultants and the "downstream" idea-execution factories mentioned by WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell ("Agencies face new battlegrounds: Sorrell," Forum, AA, April 13).

Below the water's surface is a third segment successfully vying for advertisers' business: the new and growing phenomenon of microagencies.

Microagencies are to the global agency holding companies what microbreweries are to the Anheuser-Busches and Miller Brewings of the world. We're sort of in the same business -- but that's where the similarities end.


While microagencies retain the advantages Mr. Sorrell claims traditional agencies enjoy -- a history of turning the talents of creative individuals to our clients' business advantage, and a history of working from the ultimate consumer backwards -- we have a noticeably different attitude and focus.

While many in the business say traditional agencies have lost their strategic role, microagencies lead with that discipline. At my own microagency, we have built a special strategic planning unit headed by a cultural anthropologist that, to the great joy and benefit of our clients, is relentlessly focused on the needs of their consumers.

Microagencies, unlike traditional agencies hooked on media commissions and 30-second TV spots, use those consumer insights to develop full and integrated strategic marketing communications programs. And microagencies, unlike marketing consultants that leave their clients wondering what to do with all of that strategic thinking, actually make things that move consumers to act. We solve problems.

And unlike those creative boutiques, microagencies are as devoted to nailing a compelling brand strategy as we are to doing creative with true stopping power.

Decker is pioneering the concept. We consult, but we're not a consultancy. We make ads, but we're not an ad agency. We're creative, but we're not a boutique. We're microagencies.

We trade in consumer insights and brand strategy, not in the manufacture and distribution of ad messages or the publishing of white papers. Because of that, we bring a value to our clients those other kinds of companies can't.

Mr. Cheyne is president-CEO, Decker, Glastonbury, Conn.

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