As published in Direct – January 1, 1996

This is the Regional Chauvinism edition of Agency Watch and we’re talking with East Coast and West Coast agency heads on their respective styles and sensibilities. The floor goes to the West’s Marcia Kadanoff.

“The East has more long-standing, traditional direct marketing accounts, such as Columbia House and Reader’s Digest, who focus on beating the control,” offers Kadanoff, principal of San Francisco’s Miller/Kadanoff Direct & Promotions Inc. By contrast, she says, the West is a breeding ground for entrepreneurial start-up companies like Apple, Microsoft and Netscape. “With no past history, sometimes anything goes, and the clients here – especially the technological ones – are more willing to take risks and think outside the box.” Two cases in point are Brierley & Partners – which invented the frequent-flyer business when it devised American Airlines’ Advantage program – and Hal Riney & Partners’ Saturn homecoming party. “Thinking 40,000 people would be willing to spend their summer vacation in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and then pay $35 to get into the event, was definitely thinking outside the box,” Kadanoff says of the Hal Riney project. Miller/Kadanoff went against the grain when it designed a program for 3COM targeting computer resellers – not a particularly brand-loyal crowd. The campaign netted a 25% response.

What do Easterners have to say to this? “It’s the needs of the client, not the work, that is different,” says Tom Burden, executive vice president for Baltimore’s TBC Direct, whose clients include Group 1 Software and America Online, both East Coast companies. “We do quite a bit of classic direct here because it works,” he says, “but we also swim in waters that haven’t been swam in before.” Phil Herring of Seattle-based Herring Newman argues that campaigns originating from his side of the U.S. map are more integrated. “More East Coast companies are in the mail order business or strictly use DM channels,” he says. “Clients here tend to require multiple distribution channels.”

We’ll close with an assessment from perhaps the ideal observer – Peter Blau of Barry Blau & Partners, who works out of Westport, CT, but sports a bicoastal resume. He notes that agency people in New York and Chicago are more cost-minded; creativity is important to them but tends not to be as trendy or flashy. “I believe every region has its own creative style,” Blau adds. “San Francisco, for example, is an art director’s town, so cutting-edge design is more important there than anywhere else. But packages tend to cost more because of it.”

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