OPINION: Stuart Elliott in America

Usually, this column offers an American perspective on advertising for British readers. Today, you'll get an American perspective on the British perspective.

That's what was offered at a provocative panel during the 2002 Management Conference of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, which was held from 17 April to 20 April at a swank Southern California resort.

The panel, titled "The British Are Here,

gave three English agency supremos, as you'd say, all now working in New York, a chance to tell about 300 of their American counterparts their side of the advertising story on this side of the pond.

The trio is representative of the "second wave

of British executives on American soil, eg. post-Jennifer Laing of Saatchi & Saatchi, post-Chris Jones of J. Walter Thompson , post-Paul Hammersley. No, wait, one of them was Hammersley, now on his third US go-round as the chief executive for the American operations of Lowe & Partners Worldwide. The others: John Farrell, the president and chief executive at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, and Cindy Gallop, the president and chief executive of the New York office of Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

The panel veered from serious to silly and back again for 45 absorbing minutes, addressing issues as weighty as the stereotypes Americans and Britons have of each other and as light as why most Britons based in New York settle in Greenwich, Conn. The moderator helping move the conversation smartly along was a journo transplant, Stefano Hatfield of the Ad Age Group, who once did something or other for this publication.

Asked why he came over, Farrell replied: "I was intrigued by a lot of the differences

between agencies in the two countries, "and wanted to find out for myself what's true and what's a cliche."

For example, Farrell said, he has learned that "scale drives an awful lot of the differences

between the two markets in that the Cadillac account based in the D'Arcy office in suburban Detroit "is bigger than whole London agency groups."

Hammersley, after jesting that "I'm here for the money,

approvingly quoted a line from the actor Nicolas Cage that: "If I lived in Roman times, I'd want to live in Rome."

"It's clear if you stay in London or any other outpost of the Roman empire that you are on what I call the 'ass-end' of decisions made in the United States,

he said.

Gallop said she believes "the advertising industry is held in far less high regard and respect

in the US "than the industry in the UK or other parts of the world."

Even so, her American rivals have been "extraordinarily helpful,

she added, passing on new-business leads and even "recommending us to clients in a way to be perfectly honest I don't think you'd encounter in the UK."

Hammersley agreed that "Americans are far more open in embracing foreign

colleagues, adding: "If it was the other way around, I think Brits would be far more xenophobic about working with so many Americans because Brits are not used to working in a multicultural environment."

Hatfield, as is his wont, had the last word. The cultural divide "could be worse,

he told the conference. "We could be French."


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