LIVE FROM 4As:DDB’s Kaess Urges Peers to Demonstrate Value

DANA POINT, CALIF.–The ad industry must do a better job of quantifying the value of its brand-building capabilities, or risk further erosion in the confidence and respect of its clients, said Ken Kaess, CEO of DDB Worldwide and incoming chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Kaess, speaking Friday at the 84th annual Management Conference of the 4As, suggested that the group fund a major research study, conduct annual surveys on client needs and publish third-party articles or books about brand-building success stories. This could be done over a three-year period as part of a long-range strategic plan, Kaess added.

“Think about it. If we could achieve this one goal–increasing the value of our product–wouldn’t that solve a lot of our ancillary problems?” Kaess said. “Wouldn’t clients be willing to pay more for a product they valued more?”
Kaess called upon agency executives to “help more clients understand the power of these elusive–yet very real–ingredients that we add to brands.” More pointedly, he challenged executives to lead the effort, asking, “Or have we grown so comfortable with our position in the back seat of the marketing partnership that we’ve forgotten how to drive?”

Kaess outlined his priorities as board chairman for 2002-03 on the third day of the conference, which continued to sound an optimistic note, despite few tangible signs of economic recovery in the marketplace. About 300 attended this year’s gathering, held at a beach-front hotel about an hour south of Los Angeles.

Also addressing industry executives Friday was Interpublic Group CEO John Dooner, who stressed the importance of fundamentals amid a recession. In addition, Dooner used charts and graphs to illustrate the marketplace dominance of the top three ad holding companies: IPG, Omnicom Group and WPP Group.

Dooner urged agencies to get fair compensation for their services and at the same time work harder to better understand clients and consumers. In particular, shops must strive to coordinate the delivery of different marketing services, he said, adding, “The one of the majors that gets this right, wins the game.”

Shifting to a creative perspective, TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Chuck McBride reflected on the different styles of West Coast creative leaders such as Wieden + Kennedy’s Dan Wieden, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein and TBWA\C\D’s Lee Clow, showing a reel of some of their best work.

While acknowledging a dearth of new business opportunities in the region, McBride, the North American ecd of TBWA\C\D, maintained that the “ad industry has a huge stake in the West Coast.” And, in keeping with the conference’s upbeat outlook, he added, “There’s a future here (and) the survival rate will be quite high.”