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Marriages are made in heaven. But recent examples from Madison Avenue clearly show even divorces can be productive.

When Creative Artists Agency showed 50 "Always Coca-Cola" spots to the client, it rocked a 40-year connection between Coke and its agency, McCann-Erickson Worldwide. Forget that CAA is not an ad agency, its success with the consumer is what gave the brand the top-rated campaign of 1994 in Video Storyboard's ranking.

Coke was not an exception. Budweiser had barely logged three months with DDB Needham Worldwide before getting the best for 1995. The first quarter of 1996 produced two more examples in the Top 10 with M&M/Mars and BBDO Worldwide and Old El Paso with Leo Burnett USA.

Keith Reinhard, chairman-CEO of DDB Needham, has experienced divorce from both sides-as the interloper for Budweiser and loser for McDonald's domestic business in 1981. "Every newcomer claims to be sexier than your mate," he says, "so an agency must constantly let the client know that it is as good as and as full of ideas as the others seeking them out."

Most productive-or destructive-of these newcomers was probably Bert Metter, J. Walter Thompson Co.'s former new-business leader. Says Metter, "It's a catch-22 with the current agency. They cannot offer anything new. And the client won't accept anything new from them. . . . After a `yes' from a new client, give them your biggest idea and if it doesn't fly, move on to the next biggest one. They hired you for big ideas."

Dave Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests, New York.

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