Was Ron Berger Rant a Call to Action, or Lots of Hot Air?

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Outgoing 4A's Chairman Ron Berger touched a nerve earlier this month when he used valedictory speech at the association's management conference to state a number of long-simmering beefs-including one with the way WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell manages his agency brands. About 81% of Advertising Age readers polled online agreed with his sentiment about Mr. Sorrell.

Some of the agency world's PR people were among the most vocal. "Isn't it about time someone in this industry spoke their mind?" said PR consultant Ariane Herrera. "We have enough filters. Without people like Ron throwing caution to the wind and calling the industry out on its issues, we remain the same stagnant industry we are now."

Many felt that Mr. Berger's tone is crucial to pushing the ad industry, under a lot of fire for its apparent reluctance to innovate, to adapt in a changing media and marketing world.

"The advertising industry needs this type of lively discussion to evolve," said Curt Ippensen, senior VP-client services at Rhea & Kaiser Marketing Communications, Chicago.

Mr. Berger, CEO-Chief Creative Officer of Havas' Euro RSCG, New York and San Francisco, also took aim at the trend of marketers working with multiple ad agencies, the TV networks' failure to support the ad community, and the many media declarations of the death of the 30-second-spot.

But not everybody felt that Mr. Berger should have turned the podium into a soapbox. "The ad business comes out looking like it's in-fighting and maneuvering and not focused on its clients' horizons," said Patrick Flaherty, president of Brand Halo, "something the late [ DDB Worldwide President-CEO] Ken Kaess was trying hard to overcome."
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