ANA Debate Continues

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla.-Agency reaction was mixed last week to the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Association of National Advertisers’ proposed study of whether ad shops should become part of the client organization. The study will also look at fostering more cooperation between the two lobby groups.
The ANA floated the idea last fall. Burtch Drake, president and chief executive officer of the 4A’s, condemned it as a conflict of interest and an attempt to poach members. But he and John J. Sarsen Jr., president and CEO of the ANA, have agreed to the study, which is expected to be finished by October.
The development came at the 4A’s 81st annual meeting here last week.
Some agency executives were cheered at the prospect of closer relations with clients, while others questioned the need for the study.
“Keeping the walls up isn’t helpful at all,” said John Adams, chairman and CEO of the Martin Agency. Others think it’s better to leave well alone. “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 together on mutual issues such as compensation and search consultants. Said Drake: “Are there more things that we can do together? Are we going to merge? No. [Is the ANA] going to take members in as initially proposed? Probably not. Are we? No.”
Sarsen said it was “never our intention” to harm the 4A’s. “Agencies are still clients’ most important brand-building partners,” he said. ƒ