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Thriving indy shops

If you read the headlines in this publication the past year about mega-holding companies swallowing up every agency in sight, you might think there weren't any good independents left. I'm here to tell you independents are not only alive and kicking; they're thriving. I speak from experience as executive director of the $3 billion ICOM international network of 76 independent agencies in 46 countries, and after having spent more than 25 years with mega-agencies.

Last year, ICOM reinforced its position as one of the world's largest independent networks, adding 18 new agency members on six continents. More importantly, many of our multinational clients expanded their businesses into more of our offices across our network, names like Gallo, Mars, Rubbermaid/Sanford, Caterpillar and Toshiba.

We're growing for a number of reasons. But a main one is that, with new technology, agencies don't have to be huge and hard-wired into the same publicly traded parent to offer clients the benefits that traditionally came with size.

Now clients can get what they like most about an independent agency (the hands-on, direct attention of senior management and local market understanding) without giving up what they like about working with the mega-groups (broad international coverage and integrated services).

It's an equity that both parties can count on year after year, not a commodity to be traded on the New York, Paris or London stock exchanges.

Gary Burandt

ICOM Executive Director

Rollinsville, Colo.

Contrived Army theme

As the creator of the "Be all you can be" theme line, I thought Bob Garfield's comments were right on ("Army's latest campaign isn't all it can be and rings false," AA, Jan. 15).

His creative over-view was excellent, almost surprising, in understanding what the Army was up against when "Be all you can be" was introduced.

Like most good work that endures in advertising, "Be all you can be" didn't come out of a focus group. (I know this makes planners pale.) As William Bernbach said so many years ago, advertising is an art, not a science.

Unfortunately, the new theme line is a product of science [and] clearly the end product of focus groups: turning teenagers into creative directors. So what's new?

Is it really insightful to discover that young people think the military is not very individualistic? You mean the people behind the campaign didn't know this?

And to base a whole campaign on that? I think not. There are friendships to be made, and experiences to be had and skills to be learned in the Army that don't exist anywhere but in the Army. These are the wonderful trade-offs for being a soldier, for being part of a larger team. Not for everyone, and certainly not for someone who thinks he or she comes first before Duty, Honor or Country, or their buddies.

It doesn't sadden me to see BAYCB phased out. It did its job as everyone knows.

But it does sadden me to see a contrived line that will have no meaning the first day a recruit gets chewed out by a DI.

Earl Carter

New York

Bob Garfield's Ad Review of the Army's new campaign seems so innocently (and hence oddly) devoted to a desire for literal truth in the copy.

He correctly notes that the Army-and indeed all of the armed forces-have repeatedly positioned their brands relative to prevailing social trends, alternately "self-improvement" (post Vietnam) and "ambition" (1980s). But Garfield goes on to critique the current slogan from Leo Burnett USA, "I am an army of one," on truth-functional grounds. It turns out you aren't actually an "army of one" and what's worse, you might get killed! Good heavens!

This campaign actually settles firmly into the current advertising trend of framing as an extreme sport everything from drinking sugar-water to driving your car.

Military service, if we have to be objective about it, is arguably more extreme than sky-surfing anyway. It is also interesting to note that the Army, on the model of the National Football League, perhaps, has created a new logo suitable for baseball caps and Starter jackets alike-a rather brilliant move, in my opinion.

Indeed, I'm waiting to see what the Marines trot out as well. Here's my suggestion: "You did the Dew; now do the Marines."

Andrew Schwalm

Graduate student

Department of Anthropology

University of Pennsylvania



* In "Argyilan suits up for post at Hill Holliday in Boston" (Jan. 15, P. 30), Kristi Argyilan began leading the media department at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in 1998, not 1994.

* In the table "Super Bowl stats" (Jan. 15, P. 43), two of the notes explaining the column headings were incorrectly labeled. The "Ratings" column heading refers to percentage of U.S. households and the "Viewers" column heading refers to viewers 2+.

* In "FYI" ("Late News," P. 2, Jan. 8) Norman Pearlstine is editor in chief, Time Inc., not editorial director.

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