A declining belief in the power of brand identity is “life-threatening” to broadcasters and advertising agencies, according to Robert L. James, chairman-CEO of McCann-Erickson Worldwide as well as the Assn. of American Advertising Agencies.

James made his remarks at a National Assn. of Broadcasters-Television Bureau of Advertising luncheon here that also installed “60 Minutes,” the 25-year-old CBS news magazine, into the NAB’s Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

James noted that brand identity was the “driving force” behind advertising but had been put in jeopardy by recent reliance on pricing and cost promotions instead of allocating resources into advertising to promote brand names and research and development to foster product differentiation.

Recent decisions to slash prices on products such as Marlboro and Pampers should set off alarms among broadcasters and agencies, James maintained, adding that stations must play a role in convincing advertisers that price incentives “do not negate the need for advertising” and that reliance on such an approach amounts to “mortgaging the future.”

“Cutting prices moves product, but at what cost?” James asked, saying such tactics only reduce profits. “It’s gone overboard… (and) you have to make that case” to advertisers.

“60 Minutes” exec producer Don Hewitt, meanwhile, called the NAB award one that he and his staff (all six current correspondents attended) had coveted, saying otherwise they’d “give up 3 share points rather than come to Las Vegas.”

Mike Wallace, one of the show’s founding members, said he wanted to be around to see it move into the 21st century, while 12-year veteran Ed Bradley quipped he was happy “helping to carry (the show) through Mike’s middle years.”

Curmudgeon Andy Rooney had the best lines, however, saying he’d thank others but that actually “I get damn little help.” He added that with the proliferation of awards and shortage of worthy recipients, “It was as nice of us to come out here and take ’em as it was of you to give them to us.”

The show just completed the ’92-93 season as TV’s top-rated program for the second consecutive year.

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