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From The Editor

One agency executive has coined a term that may catch on if relationships, such as Cliff Freeman and Partners and Little Caesars, continue to come unglued each time the client revamps its marketing department. He calls it “pink alert.”
The term is activated anytime a new face shows up at the client and the agency starts “worrying less about selling the client’s goods and more about having to defend the account,” the jaded executive explains.
Consider it one step before a red alert, when the new person calls a review and the incumbent has to decide whether to defend the business. Given the abysmal success rate of incumbent agencies, Cliff Freeman’s decision to resign the business is not only understandable from an ego standpoint, it’s often a sound business decision.
To confound matters in Little Caesars’ case, the company called a review while searching for a new marketing person. So much for it being “all about the work.” True, Little Caesars’ sales have not matched the success of its award-winning ads. Still, Cliff Freeman did put this client on the map.
Of course, no one can blame a client for analyzing every facet of their new company. Given the speed at which marketing people come and go, agencies can’t expect much sympathy or patience from their new bosses. Clients are exposed. They are under pressure and expected to get results as quickly as possible. They want their own people beside them in the trenches. Is it any wonder the agency is one of the first things to get “fixed?”
One agency executive cynically muses that, if nothing else, calling a review buys a client time-six months to finish the review and six months for the new work to kick in-before the new person comes under the boss’ microscope.
“There is nothing in the whole ad business as unfair as a new client feeling the need to have a new agency,” says Berlin, Cameron & Partners’ Andy Berlin.
While not a new phenomenon, this client behavior is puzzling-and habitual. “It doesn’t take into consideration the effort behind the brand,” said Partners & Shevack’s Brett Shevack. “The consumer does not know who the agency or the marketing guy is. The consumer only knows the brand.” And reviews disrupt the image of the brand.
While the “pink alert” mentality may be commonplace among agencies, it transcends the ad business. These days, many people work on a full-time, freelance basis. Loyalty to employers barely exists, but companies do little to earn it. Any new variable seems to compel staff to have one eye on what they are paid to do and the other on lining up a new gig. Who can blame them?
By most accounts, Cliff Freeman’s work for Little Caesars is some of the best in the category. No one expects the shop to be on the sidelines for long. As you read this, many agencies with fast-food accounts will be doing extra hand-holding. Still, the cause-and-effect relationship between the arrival of a new marketing person and the onset of a review sends a clear
message: In today’s short-term world, experience is often discounted.
And that chilling notion should remind everyone of a fundamental truth: It’s all about relationships. -Kevin McCormack