Stefano Hatfield On Advertising

Do as Shona Seifert says - not as she did
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The Independent Online

The resulting "code" has now been made public, and in that uniquely American way is long on statements of intent and platitudes, and short on specific suggestions. My copy was accompanied by an enjoyably obsequious covering letter to the New York judge who came up with the wheeze, but it had annoyed me by the time I got to the first line of the introduction, "To Frontliners Everywhere".

The code scarcely reads like the mea culpa of a contrite sinner, more a subtle attempt to suggest that if only Seifert had voiced the concerns she encourages others in similar situations to air, none of this would have happened. By implication, someone else is to blame: "Standing up for what you think is right takes courage," Seifert writes. "Don't compromise your own values to achieve someone else's goals."

As I wrote at the time of the sentencing, it is inconceivable to me that for the cover-up of a $3m shortfall on a single account in one year the buck stopped with the New York agency's account director, Seifert (and the finance director, Thomas Early), and not higher up the network's food chain. Seifert consistently suggests as much - though not in so many words. Meanwhile, she makes excuses: warning agencies to place greater stress on accountable processes rather than focusing merely on big ideas ("Boring work has never resulted in a prison sentence. Poor timekeeping practices have"); suggesting some agencies should not take on the complexities of government advertising accounts; positioning herself as "in the line of fire" - taking the bullet for more senior management. There are digs at the notoriously difficult client too: "It is critical to know how success will be measured before work begins."

Go to www.adage.com to download the whole document, and, as Seifert says, "be your own judge". The trouble is - whatever the pressures - her own judgement failed her. And, sympathetic though I am to her taking all the heat, I would doubt that there is anything in her own code that she did not already know when she failed to make the correct ethical decisions when required.

WHEN THE MILES Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy creative partners Paul Briginshaw and Malcolm Duffy worked at Abbott Mead Vickers, their office was on "millionaires' row", an area of the creative department populated by exceptionally highly paid males under the legendary David Abbott. Now, with the proposed sale of 51 per cent of MCBD to the Canadian Cossette group for £7.8m (with more to come), the duo have made the nickname reality.

The creatives, with former AMV colleagues Jeremy Miles and Helen Calcraft, have created a nice little agency that in some ways reflects the middle-class reputation of the early days of AMV itself. Clients such as the BBC, Diageo, Cadbury and Debenhams underscore this. MCBD, like VCCP and Delaney Lund Knox Warren before it, has sold for a very good price for a respectable B-plus agency. In response to my exhortations last week to escape network drudgery and start up your own agency, I am told there are plenty of buyers about. What are you waiting for?

IN THE VEIN of the above, Krow is the unlikely name of the proposed start-up to be fronted by the former D'Arcy managing director Barry Cook and creative director Nick Hastings, together with Arc CEO, John Quarrey, and the former Euro RSCG planning director Malcolm White.

It is an intriguing line-up, notable for the presence of the direct marketer Quarrey as a principal, and for the chance it offers Cook, one of UK advertising's more decent, unaffected senior executives, to shine in his own set-up. Krow apparently stands for "work" backwards - one of the worst reasons for a funny name I can remember.

AMID THE RECENT commentary on the addition of more creatively oriented agencies - Bartle Bogle Hegarty (only now?), Clemmow Hornby Inge and Mother - to the Central Office of Information's official roster at the expense of the likes of Saatchi & Saatchi and Euro RSCG, it was possible to overlook the curious "coincidence" of three WPP agencies being dropped. JWT, RKCR/Y & R and Grey were all removed from the list by COI boss Alan Bishop.

Being on the COI's roster has a prestige beyond the fact that the Government is by far the UK's largest advertiser. For two agencies from the same network group to be dropped might be a coincidence, but for three to go there is clearly some kind of conspiracy. Sir Martin Sorrell will not be happy.

SORRELL WILL ALSO be disappointed to have lost out on the $600m Bank of America account to the Omnicom Group. Not half as disappointed of course as the IPG CEO, Michael Roth. The last thing he needed just now was to lose $60m-plus worth of income at group companies such as Draft and Initiative.

Accounts of this size just don't come along more than once or twice a year. And IPG is unlikely to attract another major financial institution while the delay in filing last year's results persists. It will be the most eagerly anticipated filing in advertising history.

THE POOR PEOPLE of the Gulf states have lost everything: their homes, possessions, livelihoods and - at a pace growing with each passing day - their loved ones. But they can take comfort in the fact that they will at least look good in front of the thousands of media cameras that have arrived to intrude upon their misery. Incredibly, a breathless flack from Think PR e-mailed me last week to say that in response to a cancellation order from a woman who had lost everything in Katrina, e.l.f. cosmetics had not only rushed her an emergency kit of cosmetics, but had created a special 10,000-strong batch of Hurricane Katrina relief kits. Each kit contains "pressed powder, shimmering facial whip, lip moisturiser, lip gloss and mascara".

As if that's not enough, e.l.f. asks for people who know Katrina victims to send in their contact details via its website. What contact details? Haven't they seen the pictures from New Orleans? I don't know who is the more crass, e.l.f. or its PR people. How about a code of conduct for marketers?

HATFIELD'S WORST IN SHOW: PEPSI MAX

Three guys lie down in a dusty arena. They are each thrown a can of Pepsi Max by the ringmaster, while a "Monster Truck" emerges behind them. The truck is supposed to roll over their prostrate bodies. "Are you sure?" they ask in unison, voicing publicly what the viewer feels watching this tosh. What are we supposed to think? Pepsi Max is so mind-bogglingly gorgeous that it makes you forget you are being crushed to death? Pepsi Max makes you so strong that the truck can't crush you? Or maybe that Pepsi Max is so disgusting that they are questioning why he threw them the cans? That surely can't be it? But then surely no ad agency would intentionally come up with a set-up this weak and a pay-off line as lame as "Taste to the Max".

Stefano Hatfield is a former editor of 'Campaign'. If you would like to tell him what 'shimmering facial whip' is, e-mail Stefanohat1@aol.com.

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