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The notion that ad agencies and marketers are "partners" has become almost laughably ludicrous in recent years. Marketer CEOs are further removed than ever from advertising decisions and agency relationships. Lawsuits fly after ugly agency-client breakups. Consultants act as middlemen in account reviews. And reviews follow changes in marketing management as surely as night follows day. Agencies in most cases have become vendors.

Until recently, the compensation squeeze has been another factor in the deterioration. But as Procter & Gamble Co. joins the still-growing list of marketers killing media-based commissions in favor of performance-based pay systems there's an indication some aspects of the relationship can be repaired.

If anything can make marketers and agencies act more like partners, it's a plan that ties the fortunes of one to the fortunes of the other. Under performance-based models, the agency succeeds if the marketer succeeds, and that gives both sides more incentive to strengthen their bonds.

In the end, there's one thing that matters more than labels, and it was best summed up by BBDO Worldwide CEO Allen Rosenshine in Ad Age two months ago. "If agencies don't get back to worrying about the quality of work," he wrote, ". . .

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