Search Consultant Turns to Teaching

DALLAS Alvin A. Achenbaum, who recently left search consulting company Achenbaum Bogda Associates, said Tuesday that he has created Achenbaum Marketing Communications to provide lessons in advertising.

Achenbaum, 79, called one of the most influential and controversial figures in advertising by several business journals, said he will continue to operate out of his office at 225 Central Park West in New York. His co-founding partner, Pete Bogda, is based in Dallas. With Achenbaum’s departure, Bogda last week renamed the firm ABA Partners and promoted his son Mike Bogda and Reji Puthenveetil in Raleigh, N.C., to managing partners.

Achenbaum, who was once called a “quisling” for driving down advertising fees, said he has assembled speeches and articles he has written since the 1960s and plans to create a series of DVD lectures on developments in marketing and keys to success in the field. A former teacher at New York University’s Graduate School of Business and City University of New York’s Bernard Baruch Graduate School of Public and Business Administration, Achenbaum has lectured at several top universities.

Achenbaum said he and his late partner Stanley Canter built a model for search firms in 1974 when Toyota asked the consultants to help the fledgling Japanese importer find an agency.

“They were having a hard time finding an agency that wanted to represent them,” Achenbaum said.

Huddled in a motel in Huntington Beach, Calif., Achenbaum and Canter wrote up what would become their blueprint for conducting an agency search, Achenbaum said.

“We no sooner did it for Toyota and they recommended us for Nissan, which is a bit unusual,” he said. “Honda wanted us for their new cars. We did it for Chrysler. We did all kinds of stuff for all kinds of car companies.”

In the last search he participated in for Achenbaum Bogda, the client was Korean automaker Kia, and the winner of the review was incumbent Davidandgoliath, an independent in Los Angeles. Achenbaum, who called the review complex, said he helped mediate the final decision.

As a search consultant, Achenbaum was reviled by agencies for attacking the 15 percent commission and replacing it with negotiated fees. He also helped introduce indemnification clauses that, in some cases, required the agency to pay the client if it dropped the account.

In a 1987 speech, Leonard Matthews, then president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, called Achenbaum a “quisling.” Achenbaum later called Matthews a “Neanderthal.”

“At the end of it all, he ended up being canned at the end of the year,” Achenbaum said.

Achenbaum said he was not the cause of the fee structure’s collapse, that major agencies had already begun discounting work for their top clients.

“Today, all service companies negotiate their fees—real estate, lawyers,” he said. “The world has become very negotiation wise.”

With his partner’s retirement in 1989, Achenbaum dissolved his consulting firm Canter Achenbaum Associates and went to work for Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide as vice chairman of professional services.