Do Historical Figures Belong in Ads? The Debate Continues

I’m with Andrew McMains 100 percent on the Alcatel ads and the way they appropriate Lou Gehrig and Martin Luther King [Art & Commerce, May 21]. In a slightly less garish fashion, Apple’s “Think dif ferent” ads of a few years ago (one featured snippets of 20 or so celebrities, thinkers, artists) struck the same chord with me. While the company spin is that their brand is saluting various visionaries, the reality of the commercial spot is only so much name-dropping. Gandhi and Lennon aren’t connected to Apple by the remotest means, and the company doesn’t imply that the icons in its ad had any direct influence on their product, but still … they’re obviously looking to benefit from a favorable mental association.

I think Alcatel sinks even lower, not only hitching a ride on the coattails of two historic (even mythic) moments, but also espousing some of the nauseatingly transparent “new economy” pseudo-philosophy that gets attached to everything from cell phones to ISPs.

People will definitely use their product to “connect”—although that term has taken on its own distorted connotations—but to “inspire”? Please. Cingular slings a similar kind of faux deep drivel, hinging on “self-expression.” If they could reanimate the remains of a Founding Father and coach him to read aloud the First Amendment, I’m sure they would spare no expense.

Jason Alberti
Lead research analyst
Watertown, Mass.

Small Accounts Just Drop in Bucket for Big Agencies

Regarding the feature on how large agencies are seeking accounts of any size [May 28], I’d like to remind large-agency chiefs of a syllogism: Adding unprofitable accounts does not increase profitability … and you can’t make it up with volume! Large agencies are built, organized and managed to handle the complex needs of large, international clients who often require elaborate multichannel communications solutions. Striving to add small single-channel-need clients is the equivalent of solving the Titanic’s water problem with a bucket. One need only look at the sickly agency profit margins of the early ’90s to know that reductions in force is the only profitable means to address slowing client demand. Don’t condemn yourselves to repeat history!

Mitch Kurz
Chairman, Kurz & Friends
Norwalk, Conn.