Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Champagne Phil

Let me re-introduce you to Philippe Holtzweiler – he of the French champagne and bow tie. (See the “Type Brands” post, 20 September.) His agency ( is in Freiburg, Germany. He returned to Dialogue International as one of its newest members and sent this back to Signalwriter after Budapest.

“Twelve years after my last Dialogue meeting (In Lissabon, I think, at the Hotel da Lapa), I was there again as a new member. This has indeed been a very interesting experience.

“In the Dialogue of yore, there used to be this London-Paris tandem spearheaded by Jaakko Alanko (Dialogue’s first Chairman – ed.), and the rest of us.

“Now this is completely gone, with half the members coming from CEE states. Noteworthy, though anecdotic, the dress code is a lot more relaxed: I put on a bow tie only for dinner, and I could have easily dispensed with it altogether.

“On the other side, a striking generation gap has opened ­ which did not exist then. Peter Thoma emphasized the presence of Gray Panthers (including him) ­as opposed to some Eastern European members who are, in part, at least a whole generation younger!

“There were also very noticeable differences between the situation in mature, currently slow-moving advertising markets (France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland) and the booming Eastern European markets. There, sophisticated advertising is still a promising ‘New Frontier’ with rosy development and profit perspectives. With regard to this, new business in (old) Western Europe rather feels like some pain in the ass (sorry for being so straightforward).

“The atmosphere was very enjoyable, with many interesting presentations by new members, a lot of sympathetic and interesting participants and a fascinating if somewhat high-flying ­guest speaker, David Wethey, who does agency assessment for advertising clients in search of the right agency (rather among the big ones, though).

“What I somewhat missed were some real, intense discussions on crucial topics like getting new clients and holding the existing ones, as well as sharing experiences, contacts and ideas and learn from each other. Current Chairman Leif Lindau's perfectly Swedish sense of timing precluded any general exchange (as opposed to personal contact with each other during the meeting) on this. The sheer number of participants would have made this, obviously, all the more difficult to manage!

“I would also have liked some more intense discussion about realistic ways to shape Dialogue connections into practicable, hands-on tools to gain and share new business and get some tangible synergies out of the Dialogue network.”

Sigh. I recall a time when Champagne Phil and I, and everyone else in Dialogue, were the “young guys.”

If you have been reading these posts about the Dialogue Managers’ Meeting in Hungary, you have noted repeated references to the vitality of Eastern Europe’s countries, economies, and ad agencies.

In the mid-80s era of détente, the emerging economies of Eastern Europe were the hot topic. They still are – and I think you’ll be hearing more about them here. Stay tuned.

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