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TV Networks Shun 4As Media Conference

O. Burtch Drake Takes Swipe at Absent Executives

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American Association of Advertising Agencies' president-CEO, O. Burtch Drake, was interviewed by 'Ad Age' editor Scott Donaton on the eve of the annual Media Conference in Orlando, Fla.

NEW YORK ( -- As the American Association of Advertising Agencies made final preparations for its Media Conference in Orlando, Fla., this week, the group's president-CEO, O. Burtch Drake, took a swipe at broadcast TV networks for their consistent lack of interest in the annual event.

'It blows my mind'
"The surprising thing about this conference is who's not there: the TV networks," Mr. Drake said in a pre-conference interview with Advertising Age editor Scott Donaton on Ad Age TV Online. "It blows my mind, particularly given the pressure they're under and how [alternative media] are chipping at them."

The 13-year-old 4As Media Conference, which expects a record attendance of 1,500 this week, gathers general market and media agencies as well as marketers who spend two days in intensive all-day sessions reporting and discussing the latest trends and logistics of the advertising industry's media planning and buying activities. The intricacies of TV advertising have long been the central focus of most of what goes on at the conference.

Shown no interest
Despite this, TV network executives "have never really been a presence or shown any real interest in the conference," Mr. Drake said. "Their attitude has been 'We don't need to talk to you guys.' Media is the most challenging part of the [advertising] business right now, with everybody focused on the questions of where it's going and how it's going to sort itself out. I don't get it -- the lack of interest from these guys."

Noting an exception, he said Mike Shaw, ABC's president of network sales, was scheduled to attend this year's event and that a Fox executive shows up from time to time.

Big marketers
Ironically, marketers -- who are the primary target of the TV networks' efforts to sell their advertising air time -- have become a major presence at the 4As media conclave. For the last two years, the Association of National Advertisers, a trade association of the country's largest marketers, has been co-marketing the conference with the 4As. This year, more than 100 ANA-member representatives are scheduled to be in Orlando.

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