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Advice for a new giant

I reacted to the news of the [Publicis Groupe/Bcom3 Group] consolidation ("The Final 4: Publicis makes cut," AA, March 11) with more than a tinge of irony. As a former director of HDM [a joint venture of Dentsu, Eurocom and Young & Rubicam that broke up in 1991], I should like to share the lessons learned from that global initiative-a brilliantly conceived but executionally flawed business combination.

HDM also sought to integrate a U.S. agency ( Y&R) with a French agency (Havas) with a Japanese agency (Dentsu) and, though the personal memories are fond, the business lessons are to be heeded: Following is a short list of the major "Do Nots."

1. Identity: Do not claim you are a unique blend of the best of Europe, Asia and the Americas. (It may be true but it is irrelevant.)

2. Culture: Do not spend inordinate amounts of time and money developing a culture. Pure and simple, cultures reflect the leadership, the creative work and the key client franchises. You are what you do, not what you aspire to do. Save the money on worldwide meetings and put it to work on technology and communications improvements so people can communicate as people.

3. Organization: Do not share decision-making authority. Lack of clarity in terms of "who's in charge" creates bureaucracy, politicking and painfully debilitating uncertainty, which will expunge all entrepreneurial thinking. There is one person in charge, globally. Period. That person reports to a board of directors. Period.

4. Client Management: Do not share client responsibility, either by region or by country. One person must be in charge. If that person cannot do it, change the person not the structure. If clients don't want one person in charge, then rethink the wisdom of the merger you just had. The fact is that clients do want a global partner, but local clients may not. They will be gone, so don't try to accommodate every local ego.

5. Services: Do not make this an advertising-centric organization. Clients do not want five partners for five communications disciplines. There is still opportunity in fully integrated services delivered on a global basis. So use the money you save from eliminating worldwide boondoggles and buy top talent in PR, CRM and promotional specialists.

I wish them luck as they embark on this audacious venture. George Santayana's warnings bear repeating: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Mitch Kurz



Norwalk, Conn.

Small shops survive through innovation

I love it when Ad Age takes one of its very infrequent forays into the world of small agencies ("Small Fries," AA, March 4). Its sense of amazement with the notion that agencies with fewer than 100 employees actually exist-much less thrive-is amusing.

The article included one of our member agencies, Push in Orlando, Fla., a young shop that has experienced impressive growth despite the economy. But they are not alone. None of the agencies in our network has experienced the kinds of calamities that have eroded the multinationals. Sure, growth has slowed. But this has been a stimulant for innovation rather than for doom and gloom.

At our just-completed winter meeting, we heard members report on new ventures into a variety of areas, including brand consulting, Web-based services and customer relationship management, to name just a few. In other words, they have created survival mechanisms that are far more positive than simply throwing bodies out the window.

Most small agencies will never become big agencies. But they won't suffer the meltdowns of big agencies, either.

They are closer to their clients, foreseeing their needs and turning on a dime to answer them. For example, small agencies have been doing "integrated marketing" for decades-even though big shops discovered it only in recent years. So if Ad Age really wants to see where the agency business is going, write more articles about the "Small Fries."

Gary Lessner


Transworld Advertising

Agency Network

Fort Myers, Fla.

`Playboy' overlooked

The article "Rodale star retools" (AA, March 4) states: "Men's Health's long unchallenged status as the monthly men's magazine with the largest circulation evaporated when Maxim surpassed it in the second half of 2000."Call me a traditionalist (or someone who knows how to read an Audit Bureau of Circulations pink sheet), but with nearly 3.2 million in paid circulation, Playboy, not Maxim or Men's Health, is the largest-selling men's magazine. Why Advertising Age doesn't consider it a "men's magazine" is beyond me.

Hugh M. Cook

Executive Managing Editor

Plant Services Magazine

Putman Media

Itasca, Ill.


* In the table "A giant's top customer" (March 18, P. 66), it was incorrectly reported that AOL Time Warner accounted for 5.4% of 2001 measured ad spending across 40 of its key magazines and 6%, or $355.2 million, of combined spending in those magazines and on five cable networks based on Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR data. The correct figures, after subtracting spending by AOL Time Warner's Media Networks Inc., which should have been excluded, are 4.1% of magazine spending and 5.2% ($302.1 million) of magazine/cable spending. Also, a caption with the story "You've Got Migraine" on the same page implied EarthLink is part of AOL Time Warner. EarthLink is independent but co-promoted its service with Time Warner Cable in ads seen on CNN.

* In "FYI" (Late News, March 11, P. 2), it was incorrectly reported that AOL Time Warner's HBOnDemand had named WPP Group's Berlin Cameron & Partners/Red Cell, New York, as its first agency. The client has not yet made a final agency selection.

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