Editorial Two perspectives

Two points of view could hardly have been more different.Yong Quek, the president of Procter & Gamble, was effectively arguing for preservation of the status quo when he told a mix of client, agency and media executives at a session during...

Two points of view could hardly have been more different.

Yong Quek, the president of Procter & Gamble, was effectively arguing for preservation of the status quo when he told a mix of client, agency and media executives at a session during the Canadian Congress of Advertising that he feels comfortable with the systems and structures that exist between p&g and its ad agencies.

Hugo Powell, the president of Labatt Breweries of Canada who appeared at the same panel session, is decidedly unhappy with the way things are and wants to see radical change. Powell said the current relationship between clients and agencies is not working. In fact, he called for a ‘revolution’ in the way agencies structure themselves and in the way they operate.

In the prepared portion of his talk, Quek strongly endorsed the traditional agency construct in which an agency builds an account management hierarchy to essentially mirror that of its clients. Agency account managers exist to match up – and cultivate a relationship – with client brand managers. And so it goes all the way up the hierarchical order, creating (Quek’s metaphor) rungs on a ‘ladder’ that provides the opportunity for effective advertising to make its way to the top.

Powell’s contrary view, presented in the most unequivocal terms, is that the Canadian advertising industry must immediately begin restructuring itself. And the starting point would be to rid itself of the over-preponderance of costly non-performers, who Powell described as ‘handlers.’

‘People handling clients. People handling creative people. People handling media buyers. People handling new business prospects. People handling New York. People and activities that cost millions of dollars.

‘I don’t want to pay for handlers. And I certainly don’t want to pay for being handled.’

And yet, despite what appeared to be two chief executive officers espousing distinctly opposite philosophies on the matter being discussed by the panel – ‘How do you organize to get the best advertising?’ – Quek not only congratulated Powell during the question-and-answer session for having made a tremendously important speech, but Quek said he agreed with everything that Powell had said.

It was a poignant revelation that left some in the audience wondering whether Quek had, in a moment of unguarded candor, revealed more than he had intended. It was rather like overhearing a brief private exchange between two ceos.

Significantly, the moderator of the session was Rupert Brendon, chairman and ceo of DMB&B Canada, agency for p&g and Labatt.

Presumably, since it would be hard to imagine one agency culture satisfying Quek and Powell, Brendon – and by extention, many other Canadian ad agency ceos – must now choose to respond to one of two philosophies.

Or, if Quek really does agree with Powell, then there is no choice.