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Saluting Bacal, Griffin

I was saddened to learn that Joe Bacal and Tom Griffin had recently announced their retirement (AdAge.com, Dec. 20). I was lucky enough to work for them for almost six years and I have yet to meet anyone in our industry who has cared more about their clients, their agency or their employees. For some, the news of their retirement may be a tree falling silently in the woods. However, for those of us fortunate enough to have worked with them, the noise is deafening.

Judd Harner

Senior Partner

Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide

New York

Why Olds failed

Re: "Rock blames Burnett" (AA, Dec. 18): It's the agency's fault! According to John Rock, the demise of Oldsmobile lies in "the biggest mistake he ever made," which was not firing [Oldsmobile agency] Leo Burnett USA in 1992. While Burnett was surprised and disagreed with this statement, it is frustrating and disappointing that Ad Age presented such a one-sided and frankly absurd opinion. As someone who worked at Leo Burnett on Oldsmobile before, during and after the 1992 review, I find Mr. Rock's comments both insulting and comical.

It is insulting to the hundreds of people who have worked extremely hard over the years to help Burnett produce advertising for Oldsmobile [to be] singularly blamed for the division's marketing failure.

What is comical is that [neither] Mr. Rock nor the article acknowledge that Oldsmobile's failure has much more to do with poor product and inferior service than bad advertising. From top management, like Mr. Rock, down to individual dealers, Oldsmobile marketers have never addressed the reality that product and service affect brand image as much, if not more, than advertising.

For decades Oldsmobile leadership has asked Burnett to change the carmaker's image. And indeed it has-many times. But despite these image changes, guided by Mr. Rock and other division management, Oldsmobile products and service failed to impress either consumers or critics with competitive quality and value.

Yes, Burnett shares some responsibility for Oldsmobile's decline. Advertising like "It's not your father's Oldsmobile" and "Demand better" achieved top of mind awareness among consumers, but failed to provide an authentic and compelling reason to buy an Oldsmobile.

The lesson from all of this is clear: Achieving high brand awareness won't help you if your product and service don't meet the needs and expectations of consumers with many competitive choices.

Those who have worked on the business can accept the fact that advertising failed to make consumers feel better about Oldsmobile. We realize consumers will not be persuaded by image alone.

There is plenty of blame to go around for Oldsmobile's demise; and that, instead of solely blaming the agency for Oldsmobile's failure, Mr. Rock counsel other general managers at General Motors not to expect advertising to solve their problems. Mr. Rock might suggest to other GM divisions that they change their companies from inside out. Ford and Chrysler realized this long ago.

Hopefully, the closing of Oldsmobile is just such a sign of changes to come-unless in years to come all GM agencies will be blamed for the company's continuing decline in market share.

Rich Taylor

Account Director

Robinson & Maites


Editor's note: Mr. Taylor worked at Burnett on Oldsmobile from 1990 to 1994.

Truth about `Daisy'

I would like to thank Rance Crain for his honesty in handling his column concerning the "Daisy Girl" ads ("Bush backers' new `Daisy' ad revives some old battles as well," Viewpoint, AA, Nov. 6). We had known that Tony Schwartz had wrongly claimed ownership of the original ad. His candor in pointing this out was appreciated, at least by us, the creators of the second Daisy ad. We painstakingly documented everything that we said. As you know, for all of Mr. Schwartz's bemoaning, Daisy II has become the most seen and successful political ad, even more than the original.

Carey Cramer Sr.


Meridian Group

McAllen, Texas

An Absolut miss

I gotta tell ya I enjoy reading Bob Garfield, but I am at a complete loss to understand his high praise for the Absolut ad with a portrait of a sad-eyed Jerry Lewis with a glass of vodka jammed up his mouth ("Bet the farm; it's only money," 2000 Year in Review, AA, Dec. 18). Memorable, yeah. But it sure doesn't make me want to run out and buy a bottle of Absolut. As a matter of fact, I think it could better serve as an anti-alcohol public service ad.

Louis B. Raffel

American Egg Board

Park Ridge, Ill.


* In "ABC urban radio unit signs three national advertisers" (Dec. 18, P. 18), ABC Radio incorrectly attributed to a Yankelovich study a finding that radio is the primary medium of choice for African-Americans. That conclusion was from a report by the Strategic Research Institute's Teller Group unit.

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