Playing the Name Game: Business Is Business
About Rodney Underwood’s lament for advertising’s forgotten giants, titled “Disappearing Act” [Art & Commerce, Dec. 6]:
While I sympathize with the feelings of the writer, I can’t agree with him.
I’ve started an agency, and I’ve put my name on the door. I figure I earned the honor by starting out on my own nearly four years ago and making it. Since then, we’ve grown into a 45-person organization. We’re proud of the work we do, but we’re always thinking about making it better.
I know that I’m building a legacy here. I’m building something for the ages. Nobody works as hard as I do without affecting people. That’s our legacy. We affect people, and they affect people, and the chain continues, as long as there are people. Maybe even longer than that.
But it doesn’t have anything to do with your name being on a door long after you’re gone. It does only if you believe that institutions are the extended shadow of a great leader. Perhaps institutions are, but who wants to spend their working life in an institution?
Advertising is a team sport or a group art happening or a business of organizations, depending on how you look at it.
We don’t call the Yankees the “Ruths.” We don’t call the New York Philharmonic the “Toscanini.” And the largest thing we named after George Washington was our capital city, not the country he fathered. Were we to “rebrand” these organizations, I don’t think the new names would ring true.
What about all the other great Yankees? What about Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin?
If our founding fathers were advertising guys, would we be living in a nation called “Washington Jefferson Hamilton Franklin & Partners?” Does anyone think that would be better? Does the fact that we live in the U.S. mean we’ve forgotten the greats?
So why don’t we brand our agencies like Coke? Because, like the law-firm business, this one starts as a business of relationships between principals and grows into relationships between people in organizations. The organizations end up with the names of the principals they started with or they don’t. It doesn’t mean anything, either way.
I, for one, have not forgotten those visionaries. I think of at least one a day, whenever I make
a tough decision, whenever I’m groping for some wisdom.
When I die, or retire, whichever comes first, and they take my name off the door of the agency that used to be mine, the part of me that had the ego to put it on there in the first place will mourn. But at least I’ll know my legacy–and I hope it’s a positive one–will be intact.
And I hope that some reverent soul, such as Rodney Underwood, will remember me as well in Adweek as he did Larry Papler and the others. If he does, then wherever I am, even if I’ve already died and gone to Omnicom, I know I’ll be smiling.
Mark DiMassimo
President, creative director
DiMassimo Brand Advertising
New York
Just a comment on Rodney Underwood’s guest column: These days, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the door. It’s not about agency “brands” or “authenticity and heritage.” Today, there are more new brands fighting for attention than at any time in the history of commerce. It’s open season on slow, bureaucratic, inertia-laden companies–clients and agencies alike–that can’t keep up.
As Chrissie Hynde would say, “Stop your sobbing” and get on with it.
Tom Wilson
Freelance copywriter
Darien, Conn.
Still Not Dead: Account Planning Is Alive and Kicking
Iseldom write a letter to the editor, but Nick Carpathia’s letter, “Account Planning: May It Rest in Peace” [Dec. 6], demands a response. After 25 years in media sales for television, I now run an executive recruiting firm. We have a high demand for planners, who are not easy to find.
The planning community was, is and will always be the lifeblood of media. One of the key reasons is that most planners begin their career as part of the 18-34 demo, which is key to understanding cultural trends and movements.
A good example would be the misnotion that this New Year’s Eve was to be a big night out. In fact, most baby boomers will be at home with friends and families, as will most other Americans. Many astute media planners saw this early on.
In the year 2000, an agency without media planning is like a client without a budget.
Lee Rudnick
DBI Media Executive Search
New York
New Breed of Online Retailers? Not Exactly Revolutionary
In your article titled “Dot Shops” [IQ Interactive Report, Nov. 8], the writer discusses a “new breed of online retailers” selling their own branded products next to national brands. The article states, “It’s a scenario unthinkable without the Net’s overt ‘cool’ factor,” as though this retail approach were some revolutionary new marketing strategy.
Never once does the story mention the term “private label,” which is the actual name of this phenomenon, and it’s long been a “thinkable” and important retail strategy for brand building,
developing customer loyalty and increasing profit margins. It’s almost as old as the packaged-goods industry itself.
The dot.coms cited may have developed some legitimate new product offerings, but they can’t lay claim to revolutionizing the retail world.
If anything, their intelligent use of an established retail strategy suggests that online retailers may have even more to learn from their brick-and-mortar predecessors.
Michael Gold
Goldforest Advertising