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ANA: Big Ideas Still King

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NEW YORK In an increasingly complex and crowded media landscape, it's more important than ever to develop cutting-edge ideas that excite and motivate consumers.

So said executives from both sides of the aisle at the Grand Hyatt Hotel here today at the Association of National Advertisers' forum on client-agency relationships.

"I remind the folks at Campbell's that if we were so great at advertising, we'd do it ourselves. But we ain't. So that's why we need partners," said company vp of global advertising Paul Alexander.

The Camden, N.J., client's two lead agencies are Omnicom Group's BBDO and WPP Group's Young & Rubicam.

According to Alexander, fostering a climate of partnership, trust and humility helps agencies feel comfortable enough to present their boldest work and yields the best results over the long haul.

Ironically, as examples he displayed print ads from Campbell's Godiva Chocolatier, a brand now in review after splitting this summer with MDC's Margeotes Fertitta Powell.

A member of the audience asked Alexander why, if the work was so praiseworthy, Godiva is looking for a new agency.

He said simply, "Things change," but offered no elaboration.

David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO North America, warned that the worst enemy of any client and its agency is the "malicious obedience" that sometimes infects the relationship and stifles true innovation.

He used Elvis Presley's sad later years as an analogy. "Everyone was walking around saying, 'Yeah, Elvis,' until one day, he was fat and dead," Lubars said.

There is no next "killer app," Lubars insisted, only "magical, engaging" ideas.

As examples, he showed BBDO's recent "nontraditional" work for FedEx in which oversized desk lamps were placed next to benches in Central Park, and the shop's series of Snickers' "digi-sodes" using music by the Black Eyed Peas.

Lubars was one of the several speakers who said agencies should not pitch an account in which the client owns the work even if the shop does not win.

David Jones, worldwide CEO of Havas' Euro RSCG, also touched on the issue during his presentation with his client, Mike O'Driscoll, North American president at Ford Motor's Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover.

Agencies that want to take creative risks should share in that risk and in the reward it may produce for the client, Jones said. "That actually is the way things should work," he said of compensation.

"We seek such agreements and have some," said Michael Duda, director of business development and corporate initiatives at Interpublic Group's Deutsch, who attended the sessions. "But it's not for all agencies. Not everyone wants it. The good ones and those who have confidence in their ability to drive and add value will seek this. The mediocre likely won't."