Agencies See Pros and Cons in Closer Relations
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla.-The imbroglio between the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers simmered down last week as the two groups proposed a study of whether ad agencies should become part of the client organization. The study will also look at fostering more cooperation between the two groups.
The ANA floated the idea of agency participation last fall. Burtch Drake, president and CEO of the 4A’s, condemned the idea as a conflict of interest and an attempt to poach members. Six months later, his opinion is unchanged. But he and John Sarsen Jr., president and CEO of the ANA, have agreed to the study, which is expected by October. The cease-fire between the two groups came at the 4A’s 81st annual meeting here last week.
Some agency executives were cheered by the prospect of closer relations with clients. Others questioned the need for the study, which will be co-funded by both groups.
“The reality is that the stuff that is most important is what agencies and clients have in common. Keeping the walls up isn’t helpful at all,” said John Adams, chairman and CEO of the Martin Agency. Gad Romann of The Romann Group beamed at the prospect of mingling with roughly 400 clients at an ANA convention. “It’s like the Garden of Eden,” said Romann.
Others thought the groups should stay separate. “Fundamentally, [the ANA and 4A’s] serve different constituencies and are fundamentally stronger as separate entities,” said Joe Grimaldi, president and COO of Mullen.
Drake suggested the study could help the groups work on issues such as compensation and search consultants. Said Drake: “Are there more things that we can do together?” Yes, said Drake. “Are we going to merge? No. Are they going to take members in as initially proposed? Probably not. Are we? No.”
Sarsen said it was “never our intention” to have a negative impact on the 4A’s.
“Agencies are still clients’ most important brand-building partners,” he said. ƒ