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What's needed? Strategy

In the essay by Saatchi & Saatchi's Tim Love ("In times of challenge, creativity to the rescue," Forum, AA, May 6), he declared that in times of challenge more creativity was needed by the advertising industry.

I beg to differ. What's needed is more strategy. The agency business has become too creative in its efforts not to sell too hard and to bond with consumers.

What's lacking in much of today's advertising is not creativity but a reason to buy one product over the army of competitors offering similar products. As I said in one of my recent books, it's "differentiate or die." The agency business had better pay more attention to that admonition.

Jack Trout


Trout & Partners

Old Greenwich, Conn.

More big agencies, fewer big ideas

I could not agree more with Ad Age's editorial , "Preserve vitality beyond the Big 4" (Viewpoint, AA, April 29).

When did the advertising business become "the business of advertising"? When the first agency went public? When the first agency CEO had to miss a client meeting to go to a stock analysts' meeting? When the first college recruiting and agency training program got cut to ensure the next quarterly report looked good? When the first annual report became more important than the year's portfolio of work?

When it was determined for the first time the only way to build the top line was to buy another company-and hope there were no serious client or culture conflicts? When "operational efficiencies" could be found in people "redundancies"? Or was it the day when someone in New York, London or Paris told someone in Italy, Brazil or Malaysia, who was having a great year, to cut expenses because HQ needed to make up for those not having a great year in the consolidated statement? Perhaps it was when the first client realized his account team was being cut in New Zealand because of an account lost in New England?

Advertising is a simple business. It's about helping clients sell their products with creative ideas. It's 30% skill and 70% attitude. Skill comes from the smarts you were born with and what you learn in school and on the job. Attitude comes from the personality and standards of the people whose names are on the door and the working environment they create.

We forever give homage to the "big idea." If you look at the classic big ideas, they seem to have come from agencies that were independent and dynamically led by the person with his or her name on the door: Bernbach, Wells, Ogilvy, Marsteller, Rubicam, Riney, Burnett, McCabe, Ally, Chiat. The memorable big ideas came before they were part of the Big Board. People wanted to work there because of the bosses not the balance sheet.

Am I living in the past? Perhaps. But it seems there are more big companies today but not more big ideas.

The mission remains the same: ideas to help clients grow their business. History shows this happens best in entrepreneurial shops, where ideas and service, and the people who provide them, are more important than shares of stock. Happily, agencies like these are still being started in all parts of the world-mostly by people who would rather make a big impact than be in the Big 4.

Gary Burandt

Executive Director


Rollinsville, Colo.

Agencies: Let clients into creative process

As a former senior executive at Young & Rubicam, and senior client marketing executive at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as well, I have to agree with Graham Phillips' Forum essay ("Let's fix advertising," Forum, AA, May 20).

The ad industry has to change to be more inclusive and responsive to the client's business, which is lowering costs and growing revenues. Agencies still often focus on the creative product, their creative reputations and awards rather than moving product and growing client revenues. In addition, agencies don't regard the client's input as valuable in the creative process.

After many years in the business world, I realized (finally) that there has to be a better way to create long-lasting and compelling strategies that inspire internal constituencies rather than strategies that leave them alienated and that they work against. Hence an "inward" approach to building ad campaigns. We have found that we achieved more compelling messages, and creative outputs that generated enthusiasm internally and lasted longer, when we start inside the company and build buy-in and support for a strategic message and participate in the creative process with the agency. It can be done if the agencies only take some of their own advice and think outside the box and let the clients into the process.

Allan Steinmetz


Inward Strategic Consulting

Newton, Mass.


* In "Ultimate upfront; we got the dish" (Adages, May 20, P. 160), "Ultimate Manilow" was incorrectly identified as an ABC special. It is a CBS special.

* In the table "Top 50 newspapers by circulation" (May 13, P. 24), Seattle Times average daily circulation gain for the six months ended March 31 was wrongly reported as 0.8% due to incorrect data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Times circulation for the period grew 1.1%.

* In "Shouting down raucous path to the truth on `America Now"' (May 13, P. 34), Lawrence Kudlow's name was misspelled on first reference. The name of the TV show on which Mr. Kudlow appears was changed to "Kudlow & Cramer" from "America Now" after the article appeared.

* In "People & Players" (May 13, P. 69), caption information provided to Ad Age incorrectly identified the titles of the persons shown in a photo taken at the Advertising Research Foundation convention. The correct titles are: Gordon Wyner, exec VP-North American strategy, Millward Brown; Eileen Campbell, president-CEO, Millward Brown North America; and Nigel Hollis, group director, strategic planning and development, Millward Brown.

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