Why, O., Why? Burtch Has Some Questions for ANA Audience

Head of 4A's Finally Gets a Chance to Air His Grievances

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After 18 years as the classic conservative association guy, O. Burtch Drake, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, had a few things to get off his chest.
O. Burtch Drake, president-CEO, had a lot of questions, but few answers, when he addressed the ANA's Agency-Client Relations Forum for the first time in his 18-year tenure.
O. Burtch Drake, president-CEO, had a lot of questions, but few answers, when he addressed the ANA's Agency-Client Relations Forum for the first time in his 18-year tenure.

He clearly wanted to take the opportunity of his appearance in front of a smattering of marketers and agencies at the ANA's Agency-Client Relations Forum, with less than a year left in his role, to air a few grievances and to let the audience know that he's not just an ambassador for his agency members, but a guy who has some opinions of his own.

Points to P&G's loyalty
Still, some of his thoughts didn't stray too far from the large-agency advocacy that has been his trademark. For example, first on his hit list were marketers who call agency reviews at the drop of a sales graph. Look at Procter & Gamble, he said, "arguably the best marketer in the world, and it has worked with Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Grey for 86, 55 and 51 years, respectively." But as several audience members couldn't help pointing out, this glosses over the fact that P&G now has a stable of more than 30 agencies, but his point was clear nonetheless.

Even clearer were Mr. Drake's thoughts on the strange standards to which other marketers have held their agencies. Why, he asked, did Cramer-Krasselt get fired when its Super Bowl campaign failed to score well on a USA Today poll? Even more mystifying to him was that anyone would care about that poll in the first place: "Really, since when is the USA Today poll a valid measure of anything?"

Other rhetorical offerings: Why, Mr. Drake wanted to know, are hot shops like Goodby Silverstein & Partners and Wieden & Kennedy not members of the 4A's? Why are hot companies like Nike, Yum Brands and Taco Bell not members of the Association of National Advertisers? And why, darn it, don't any of them attend the AAAA/ANA Media Conference and trade show each February? (The latter got an answer from the audience: "Because it's too big," said a one-time attendee. "It needs to be more intimate.")

Trade-press issues
The trade press (including Ad Age) also got a bit of a bashing. Why did those damned journalists fail to point out that the same search consultant that had originally organized the ill-fated Wal-Mart review was allowed to preside over the re-run? And why did that same trade press fail to report on a Millward Brown study that revealed 83% "advertiser satisfaction with their agencies?" (Ad Age editor Jonah Bloom, in the audience, pleaded guilty to the latter charge, but pointed out that his title did cover the former.)

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, for Mr. Drake would also like to know why clients continue to ask agencies to provide all their best thinking for free? And, in an even more indignant tone, the association chief wanted to know why agencies give it to them?

Among other whys: Why is talent not paid enough? Why don't advertisers financially support the Neilsen rating system they want ratings from? Why doesn't anyone subscribe to advertising's digital identification system, Ad-ID?

Last but not least
"And last but not least," he said, "I wonder why it's taken the ANA 18 years to invite the head of the 4A's to speak at one of their conferences? Wait a minute, I think I know the answer to that question. As I demonstrated today, it's probably because I only have questions -- no answers."

The ANA plans to put Mr. Drake's speech up in full at its website, ANA.net, the first week of August.
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