Bennett, Williams alone created the Chihuahua

If you’ve ever hung out at an ad agency or had the displeasure of attending an award show, you know there’s plenty of schadenfreude among creatives. But there is no joy in Mudville today. Today there is only disbelief that a jury could award $30 million to two gentlemen who had nothing—repeat, nothing—to do with the Taco Bell Chihuahua campaign.

I had the pleasure of being a creative director during TBWA\ Chiat\Day’s creative heyday in the late 1990s and know firsthand that if anyone deserves the money, it is Chuck Bennett and Clay Williams. They developed the character. They wrote the stories. They produced the commercials. They worked tirelessly, day and night, and were wholly responsible for the success of the brand.

I don’t understand how the plaintiffs can go to bed at night knowing they got $30 million for other people’s work. But while the credit for the campaign may have been hijacked, at least Chuck and Clay still have the one thing that still stands for something (for some of us in this business): integrity.

Rich Siegel
Group creative director
Young & Rubicam
Irvine, Calif.

More bad news for the big holding companies

I believe we’re considering the wrong question with, “Are holding companies obsolete?” [Feature, June 9]. The real question is: “How does a holding company benefit my business?” In my experience, the answer is not at all, unless your account is big enough. And in my estimation, that’s $25 million a year in billings, at least. This truly is a problem for smaller clients, because so many of the small and midsize agencies are now sucked into the holding-company “vortex.”

When I was on the client side with a national brand, I worked with an agency owned by a holding company. I saw no benefit to my brand in working with an agency beholden to “out-of-town masters.” I didn’t need global resources; I needed a shop that wasn’t distracted by its corporate board or worried about the value of its parent’s publicly traded stock.

In seeking a new agency last year, one of my most important criteria was independence. I just said no to any shop owned by a holding company and tapped into the entrepreneurial spirit of the independent shops. It really was energizing, meeting with them and seeing their enthusiasm for what they do. There’s terrific work being done by these independents, and they can focus their full attention on their clients rather than on their stockholders.

By the way, when I went back to the agency business recently, I also chose to work at an independent. I didn’t see much upside to working for a holding-company agency, either.

Jamie K. Harding
Group strategic planner
Intermark Group
Birmingham, Ala.

The article on holding companies omitted two additional important difficulties they face in evolving to a more integrated approach:

The first is that distribution will be commoditized. The creative use of new communications media (wi-fi, weblogging, streaming video, etc.) will now drive integration more rapidly. Not only is this technology/creativity alchemy unlikely to interest those running integration from Madison Avenue, more important, it facilitates a new business model that is fundamentally different from that required by the holding companies. The networks were built to distribute “thin” brand content (advertising, promotions, direct) across a very broad (global) network. The new “richness and reach” of digital media means that an incredible depth of messaging can be disseminated to as many or as few consumers as desired by anybody with a T1 connection and an idea. Technological advances will make the need for a global distribution network look redundant and expensive.

Second, the holding companies lack the new processes that will make integration work. Communications has always been about like-minded people working together. The problem with trying to do this from within one of the big holding companies is that there isn’t a culture or process for working together. Language, definitions, roles within the silo companies are too specific and entrenched, especially among those who are supposed to be doing the integrating—the senior managers. So even putting aside all the financial, ego and territory problems, there is little chance for an organic new way of working together to form. This contrasts dramatically with the evolution capabilities of smaller startups populated by younger and less entrenched communications specialists, especially those who are learning to blend creativity and technology.

Of course, the usual holding-company attitude will be to wait until the interesting integration companies emerge and go shopping. But this time around, will the rationale for selling to a holding company still exist?

Stephen Walker
Headmint Brand Consulting
New York

A Republican voice for Shoptalk

Recently, Shoptalk treated us to Joel Tractenberg’s ridiculous assertion that “President Bush didn’t really win anything” [June 9]. A week later, we got to hear Mike Hughes heaping praise on Hillary Clinton for being “a forgiving wife” [June 16].

It seems you are having a difficult time finding quote-worthy Republican advertising professionals for Shoptalk, so I’m providing you with my unvarnished opinion on the aforementioned politicians: I admire Bush for being an honest, legitimately elected leader, and I loathe Clinton for being a phony, shameless liar.

Kent Rodricks
Creative director
Carlsbad, Calif.

For the Record: Ted Sann has served as chief creative officer of BBDO New York since 1993. In 2001, he also became chairman of BBDO New York, replacing Phil Dusenberry, who was named chairman, BBDO North America [Creative, May 26].

Fax letters to (646) 654-5365 or e-mail to tnudd@adweek.com.