Art & Commerce: A Forum For Opinion On Creativity, Management And Finance

Ammirati gets closure as his name becomes history
Rest in Peace
Ralph Ammirati finally got his wish. That’s what I was thinking when I first heard the name: Lowe Lintas & Partners.
You see, even from the beginning, Ralph hated seeing his name on the door of Ammirati Puris Lintas, the agency born in 1994 when Ammirati & Puris merged–or “collided” as he puts it–with Lintas.
In fact, when Ammirati and his longtime partner Martin Puris were in talks to sell their once-proud and brilliant agency to Interpublic, he raised the issue repeatedly.
Like a celebrated athlete whose number is retired, Ammirati wanted his name to disappear with him, while it still had cache and stood for great creative advertising.
Moreover, he predicted the ignominious fate of Ammirati Puris Lintas–even then.
“What made us great was that we used to scrutinize clients more than they scrutinized us. If you don’t own it, you don’t control it,” Ammirati told me years ago. He believed the agency was destined to suffer many humbling setbacks that would tarnish his name and A&P’s legacy.
Even before the details surrounding APL’s merger with sister IPG shop Lowe surfaced, it was clear that Ammirati’s predictions had come true. But last week, Ammirati said he finally got closure. “Selfishly, I’m glad my name is off the goddamn thing because of what it turned into.”
Puris, who made a determined although unsuccessful bid to run the APL network, will go on to dabble in the Internet. Puris may have been miscast or naive as a global chief, but not for lack of trying.
Still, reading the internal email in which he bids farewell to his staff, it’s clear he doesn’t want the last five years to define his legacy: “In the end, it’s all about the work and in the end, I am a copywriter. If you remember me at all, remember me as that,” he wrote.
Ammirati & Puris is certainly not the first agency to sell out and suffer for it. Madison Avenue is littered with them. But it’s hard to muster much sympathy for the owners, since their bank accounts are lined with the cash from the deals they curse.
Meanwhile, as we mourn Ammirati & Puris, the ironies of the Lowe merger bring to mind the old adage: “What goes around comes around.”
In 1994, APL was widely viewed as the saviour of the beleaguered Lintas. In 1999, Lowe is expected to stabilize an unsteady APL.
In 1994, A&P’s creative strength was intended to innovate Lintas and snap it out of its creative malaise. In 1999, Lowe is expected to elevate the creative standards of the less-than- stellar APL.
In 1994, A&P was the minnow swallowing the much larger Lintas. All top posts, save one, went to A&P brass. In 1999, the smaller Lowe is dominating the global APL network and all top posts are filled by Lowe executives, save one.
No wonder relief was only one of Ammirati’s emotions last week.
“What really bothers me is that there’s wonderful people still there caught up in this, and there will be all these dead bodies all over the place.”
He’s probably right about that, too.