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Mr. Thomas Finneran

Response to Jody Sutter and Diane Woodruff Re: When Client Conflicts Get in the Way of Pitching New Business

Jody and Diane raised a host of interesting perspectives on the gnarly issue of client views related to agency conflicts. It has always fascinated me that clients’ standards for conflicts are vastly different and more restrictive for marketing services agencies than they are for other vendors and professional service providers—including management consultants, CPA firms, attorneys, etc. Several years ago the 4A’s issued a position paper on Conflict Policy Guidelines. The paper suggests five common-sense guidelines for assessing conflicts:
1) The agency servicing unit (agency brand) should be the criterion, not the holding company.
2) An agency office can be a valid separation.
3) Unbundled services are a valid separation.
4) Conflicts should be narrowly defined (brand vs. brand rather than at the marketer, corporate or division level).
5) Conflicts should be based on real competitive issues on a product-by-product and country-by-country basis.
Marketers that are seeking relevant expertise, deep insights and scale will derive operational benefits from adopting an intelligent interpretation of conflict parameters.

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