Tall Order: A Successor to Cook – Ad Executives Weigh In As Search Begins for New Club President

By David Gianatasio and Judy Warner

BOSTON–As Elizabeth Graham Cook prepares to step down after 15 years of running the Advertising Club of Greater Boston, her eventual successor should play a greater role in promoting the region’s agencies and work toward attracting younger members to the club’s ranks, said industry executives.

The 93-year-old, 7,000-member club plays a valuable role in training and uniting the Boston ad community, executives agreed. Yet, its challenge is to become more of a ‘communications club,’ and the next president must have the background and skills to help agencies heighten their profiles in an increasingly competitive technology-driven marketplace, executives said.

Hiring a president with an agency background, someone who knows what shops go through in the daily battle for new business, will help position the club for the future, executives said. ‘If it’s a trade association and one of its charters is to promote business in the region, you’d want to (select) the next director from the business,’ said Bob Hoffman, president of Gearon Hoffman in Boston.

With a full-time staff of 11 and an annual operating budget in excess of $1 million, a skillful president could do much to promote the region’s ad industry nationwide, executives said.

Among those mentioned as possible successors to Cook were former Arnold Communications vice chairman John Verret; Ned Carboni, former general manager of Ingalls Advertising; Carin Warner, former Mullen public relations director; Donna Prince, vice president of marketing at The Prudential; Judy Neer, a consultant at Pile and Co.; and Tom Weisend, a former associate editor of Adweek who now writes business news at the Boston Herald.

‘Maybe you could have a president . . . to promote business in the region and a No. 2 person . . . with experience running a trade organization,’ Hoffman said. ‘That’s just one way you could look at restructuring.’

Executives praised Cook’s efforts to increase multicultural awareness in the ad industry. The AdClub Foundation’s minority scholarships ‘must be continued because no one else is doing them,’ said DiBona Bornstein & Random executive vice president Joyce DiBona, who called such initiatives Cook’s ‘most important legacy.’

Too much money is spent on diversity programs and not enough on promoting shops to companies in this and other markets, one executive said. Luring ad dollars from large Boston companies like Polaroid and Gillette back into the market would benefit the entire ad community just as much as the club’s vaunted diversity programs, this executive noted.

While useful, minority scholarships and diversity programs have not increased overall minority employment at New England agencies or done much to boost regional business overall, maintained some executives.

Despite constant efforts by the club in the past several years, a recent ad club survey gave the industry a 2.5 on a 10-point scale in terms of attention to diversity (Adweek, Jan. 27, 1997).

Cook’s successor must focus on ‘Youth, vitality and (be) someone who can motivate people to do a job. Elizabeth didn’t reach out to new members,’ one ad professional said.

Lowering the price of the club’s professional development courses and reaching out to young people would help make the club more inclusive and less ‘elitist,’ this executive said. –with Sarah Jones and John Spooner

Copyright ASM Communications, Inc. (1997) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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