EDITORIAL: Pfizer pitch will offer telltale sign of PR's place in the marketing hierarchy at holding companies

Pfizer's decision to solicit pitches from WPP, Interpublic, and Omnicom, inviting each holding company to offer its "best of breed" to work on its cardiovascular drugs category, demands that agencies within these holding companies put their individual brands to one side and identify the best possible people to service the account. In a similar story, Aventis chose Omnicom to service its oncology account, in that case across marketing disciplines.

Pfizer's decision to solicit pitches from WPP, Interpublic, and Omnicom, inviting each holding company to offer its "best of breed" to work on its cardiovascular drugs category, demands that agencies within these holding companies put their individual brands to one side and identify the best possible people to service the account. In a similar story, Aventis chose Omnicom to service its oncology account, in that case across marketing disciplines.

The Pfizer pitch will no doubt become a fascinating spectator sport for those on the outside. It is premature to say that more and more reviews will call on parent companies to pull together teams from across the group. But this particular review may provide an opportunity for these holding companies to dispel some of less-flattering preconceptions about their role, and about how they value PR in the marketing mix. Still, some PR firms, perhaps understandably, would rather we focus on them, instead of their parent companies. But at the same time, these holding companies want clients and prospects to recognize their ability to find creative ways to service their accounts. At our recent healthcare conference, a panel of marketing experts from a range of Omnicom companies - including Omnicom itself - spoke about integrating across the mix. The role that the parent is playing in enabling this to happen is a subject of interest to corporations - particularly when there is less information about the individual units available than ever before. Failure to attract diversity still plagues PR The results of the PRWeek/Hill & Knowlton survey on diversity in the PR profession reminds us that it is easy to be complacent when there is no strong motivation to change. The majority who say they are satisfied with the level of ethnic and racial diversity in their organizations are at odds with the commonly voiced perception that the profession has failed to attract a truly representative workforce. Nothing is achieved unless the market demands it. But ironically, the clamor for more effective ways to reach all audiences has obviously never been greater. Aren't PR execs watching TV or reading consumer magazines? Don't they know what their kids are listening to and seeing at the movies? It doesn't take a focus group to understand that the face of the "average" American has changed. It is obvious that the hard-core business reasons aren't enough to compel real change to occur. "Diversity" is not something one offers as a departmental or agency capability, along with media "share of voice" analysis, executive positioning, or speech-writing. PR cannot, and should not, truly embrace diversity simply because it will better enable companies to effectively communicate to Americans of all races and backgrounds. The real question, then, is why is the industry failing to attract the best candidates? Given the country's demographic shift, it is rather alarming that the PR profession has remained predominantly white. The spectrum of management has been changing across the country, and yet there is not one non-white CEO of a top-20 PR firm. The industry obviously wants more diversity, but is failing to attract it. That's the real problem.

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