Editorial: Raising issues at ICO is not enough

What should be made of the International Consultancy Organization (ICO) conference in Switzerland? The list of attendees reads like a who’s-who from the agency world, including several US-based CEOs: Chris Komisarjevsky (Burson-Marsteller), John Graham (Fleishman-Hillard), Bob Druckenmiller (Porter Novelli), Bob Seltzer (Ogilvy), Bob Feldman (GCI), Larry Weber (Weber Group) and David Drobis (Ketchum).

What should be made of the International Consultancy Organization (ICO) conference in Switzerland? The list of attendees reads like a who’s-who from the agency world, including several US-based CEOs: Chris Komisarjevsky (Burson-Marsteller), John Graham (Fleishman-Hillard), Bob Druckenmiller (Porter Novelli), Bob Seltzer (Ogilvy), Bob Feldman (GCI), Larry Weber (Weber Group) and David Drobis (Ketchum).

What should be made of the International Consultancy Organization

(ICO) conference in Switzerland? The list of attendees reads like a

who’s-who from the agency world, including several US-based CEOs: Chris

Komisarjevsky (Burson-Marsteller), John Graham (Fleishman-Hillard), Bob

Druckenmiller (Porter Novelli), Bob Seltzer (Ogilvy), Bob Feldman (GCI),

Larry Weber (Weber Group) and David Drobis (Ketchum).



Gathered in a room with a collective billable rate of perhaps dollars

20,000/hr, 300 or so professionals talked about some of the key industry

issues.



Included in the three-day conference were papers on intangible assets,

agency/client balance, retaining top talent, client expectations,

industry standards, creating preference, reputation management, as well

as the future of the profession.



Dominating the agenda, however, was the issue of globalization: global

PR strategy (Ogilvy), global client needs (Porter Novelli) and global

trends (Euro RSCG).



One can expect a conference held by ICO to devote a fair amount of time

to the issue of global PR. But is this really the ’big picture’ issue

that its dominance in the speaker program really suggests?



A quick reference to the Harris/Impulse Research survey, out last month,

shows that for the majority of even US firms, a global PR capability

comes low down the list of priorities. And Paul Taaffe, president of

Hill & Knowlton, made the point that while the market is seeing some

growth as sector specialists (in healthcare or hi-tech) or services

specialists (in event management) develop globally, the combination of

the three represents a tiny portion of the total business out there.



We do not dismiss the importance of global PR to a handful of US

companies, but PRWeek believes that other issues deserve greater

mention, both locally and globally.



There were, to be fair, some powerful (if unoriginal) arguments put

forward for proper and internationally recognized qualifications, better

training, more sophisticated recruitment, greater use of research, and

innovative marketing. But despite devoting so much time and energy to

the conference, for many of the 50 or so US delegates, the triumph was

in physically getting there (it was, admittedly, an awfully long way to

come, involving two flights, a train, a boat and a taxi).



One got the feeling that while agency speakers were determined to be

seen as making a positive contribution to this historic conference, they

were constantly minding their words, terrified lest they should give

away the best secrets of the research they had conducted.



The danger, moving forward, is that having talked about these issues,

nothing will actually get done. There was a distinct lack of resolutions

made - beyond the fact that ICO is now looking at running a European

conference in 2000 to examine the challenges posed by technology, plus

another international summit to be held, this time in the US, in

2001.



As every baseball fan knows, it’s not picking the right pitch that gets

you results, but following through. Over to you, guys.



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