‘Sheet Metal’ is the best anti-car commercial ever

The acclaim that Saturn’s “Sheet Metal” spot keeps getting [Adweek’s Maddy Awards, March 24] sickens me no end. Why? It shows how asleep the ad business is, how we do ads for advertising’s sake, not for the sake of the human race.

Goodby had a worthy brief: to show that Saturn thinks about people, not taillights and grill design. There’s more than one human, creative, beautiful way to do that, I’m sure. But what the agency produced is a horror: the truth of how cars are steel cages in which we are cut off from each other, desocialized and robotlike, creating road rage, pollution and more. It shows how neat it would be if adults led kids to school on foot each day—everyone would be more in touch with nature, the air would improve, and child obesity levels would go down. It shows what a colossal waste of space many highways and all parking lots are.

“Sheet Metal” is the greatest anti-car, pro-mass transit, pro-walking and pro-biking spot ever.

Yes, I don’t own a car. I bike and ride mass transit to work, to the store and, yes, to client meetings. I will own a car when they no longer pollute or cause political/ social injustices in the world.

“Sheet Metal” is beautiful and well-produced. But it’s a great makeup job on a corpse—the corpse of the car culture itself.

Paul McFarlane
Managing director
The Experiment
St. Louis

What client procurement managers need to know

Noreen O’Leary’s “Up Close and Personal” [March 17] highlights an important issue, but hardly a new one. Fee-based agency billing rates have been the standard, in our consulting experience, for more than 16 years, and in the pharmaceutical industry for even longer than that.

The problem—and what is new, as O’Leary correctly points out—is the increased involvement of procurement managers in negotiating the compensation formula. Whether known as “purchasing” or, more currently, “strategic sourcing,” “marketing sales and finance” or “promotion procurement” managers, these well-meaning buyers responsible for marketing communications procurement too often lack marketing communications background or training.

The distinction they must learn—whether from marketers, agencies, consultants or a combination of the three—is that it is not in the advertiser’s interest to micromanage agency finances and profits. It is the advertiser’s responsibility to provide an adequate and fair level of fee-based compensation for the services required. It is the agency’s business to manage for profit, balancing a predictable income against prudent expenses. Knowing which questions need to be asked in order to determine what is “adequate and fair,” and which questions cross the line into agency management, is where better-educated procurement managers will well serve their employers and their suppliers.

Rod Hanlon
Wanamaker Associates

Where’s radio in 2003 buying strategies?

As a radio producer, I was encouraged to hear a CNBC pundit forecast an advertising recovery in 2003, with radio leading the way due to its affordability. Then I read “Planning the Next Step,” a roundtable dissecting media buying strategies in 2003 [March 3]. Not one mention of radio. I ran an ad once that said, “Radio is not the bastard stepchild of the broadcast department.” Unfortunately, more often than not, it is.

But consider this: Where else can you hire the best writers, directors, actors and sound designers to create an effective, award-winning ad for just $3,000-$5,000? Also, since most people listen in their cars, you have a captive audience. There’s no TiVo, and it’s easy to hit your demographics.

In the “Planning” article, Mark McLaughlin was asked, “What is your most pressing research concern?” His answer: “Getting the most value out of your advertising.” Hello. Just make sure to buy your airtime wisely, and don’t stink it up with a lousy spot.

David Prince
David Prince Productions
Simi Valley, Calif.

Account planning thrives, despite the headlines

A Newswire item [March 17] might have left the wrong impression about the state of account planning in America. Although the Account Planning Group-U.S. is re-establishing its organizational relationship with the 4A’s, planning is thriving—not just as a discipline but also as a community.

The Account Planning Group East (a New York-based organization of planners), for example, has served hundreds of planners over the past two years with a string of events, including talks from industry giants like John Hegarty, Mike Hall and Scott Bedbury. We’ve trained dozens of planners at all levels in the most complicated techniques of quantitative research and the most practical tactics for brainstorming. We’re in the second year of a mentorship program that pairs tomorrow’s brightest with today’s best. We’ve had panel debates and pub debates. And our newsletter, Chunk, can always be counted on for a little thought-provoking commentary.

These efforts (and many more) will continue, despite your sensationalistic headlines. And they’ll continue thanks to the efforts of hundreds of passionate planners.

Jurene Fremstad
Michael Fanuele
Account Planning Group East
New York

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