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Down and out.

Advertising Executives Play Musical Chairs In Depressed Market

Advertising was down and out for 1991 and that made it top priority for business news across the country.

Arkansas was no different.

The biggest advertising story in central Arkansas came at the end of the year after the Arkansas Democrat had defeated the Arkansas Gazette to end the 13-year-old newspaper war.

What at first seemed like an advertising backlash against the newly created Arkansas Democrat-Gazette turned into a type of whiplash.

Advertisers didn't leave the publication in droves, but every time you turned your head an idea for a new publication was hatched to capitalize on the increased ad dollars available.

Certain businesses, such as the automobile dealerships and real estate companies, considered starting their own publications.

Some did.

It was an effort to deflect the increases in rates, some as much as 300 percent, at the Democrat-Gazette.

Even Little Rock radio station KARN-AM, 920, began a publication called Wheels Weekly to pick up extra advertising.

The Arkansas Writers' Project Inc., which publishes Arkansas Business, announced it would start a general interest weekly publication after the first of the year to offer a second editorial voice in the city.

Spectrum Weekly Editor Stephen Buel took offense that his publication wasn't included as another editorial voice.

The weekly news, arts and entertainment publication attempted to cash in on advertising dollars by offering free want ads.

Although publications and broadcast outlets complained loudly that they were forced to offer unrealistically low rates during the newspaper war, no outlet was ready to raise rates along with the Democrat-Gazette.

These same outlets will lose about $1 million in advertising revenue that the two newspapers used to spend.

The media quickly learned that the absence of a newspaper war does not guarantee better advertising times.

In fact, competition from the new publications could keep advertising business just as tight.

But businesses that depend on advertising for survival are getting used to the struggle and adapting.

In radio, the big advertising news came when KEZQ-FM, 100.3, and KXIX-FM, 102.9, joined sales forces and headquartered the effort at the KEZQ office.

In print, Spectrum President Karen Hutcheson decided to quit accepting "1-900" advertising in response to pressure from groups like Speak Up For Decency that routinely called Spectrum advertisers to "warn" them about the ads.

The Arkansas Writers' Project lost a significant advertiser in Dillard Department Stores Inc. when an Arkansas Times article said that the new Dillard's headquarters resembled a mausoleum.

Television advertising sales might actually post an increase of about 1 percent, which is significant because there was extra revenue from political commercials in 1990. Simply to have maintained that this year would have meant that the TV stations were doing well.

Television has thrived not in spite of but because of the local business market deflation.

For instance, automobile dealers experiencing tough times have used TV to sell more cars.

Radio has not done as well, especially because of the lost political revenue, and it will probably do about $1 million less in advertising this year.

Musical Chairs

The depressed ad market was evident more clearly in advertising agencies than anywhere.

And of all the agencies in central Arkansas, the difficult times were most noticeable at Mangan Rains Ginnaven Holcomb.

The agency laid off seven employees and lost principal Craig Rains all in one day at the beginning of the year. Near the same time, the agency lost its Mexico Chiquito account to Combs & Heathcott Inc.

Near the end of the year, principal Bob Ginnaven and Carrick Patterson, vice president of communications and director of public relations, left to form Ginnaven Patterson & Associates.

Three prominent MRGH employees left to go to the new agency, as did major clients such as Twin City Bank and St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center.

The MRGH story should continue to unfold through 1992.

Combs & Heathcott, meanwhile, continues to build.

Gary Heathcott became a principal near the beginning of the year, and the agency went on to win a big feather in its cap: the city of Hot Springs account.

Significantly, Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods did not win the account even with the strong pull of Shelby and Wayne Woods, who have a stronghold on tourism accounts across the state.

Several agencies tried to capitalize on the problems of the bigger agencies.

Larry Stone and Millie Ward, along with most of their employees, had to officially resign and physically move out of the Resneck Stone Ward & Associates offices before they could reoccupy the space as the newly formed Stone & Ward. Soon after the move, other agencies began courting former RSW clients.

While there's been talk about fallout from RSW and MRGH accounts, clients are staying with one faction or the other.

Smaller agencies have been affected drastically by the depressed market.

John Roberts & Partners went bankrupt and left debts around the city.

Follow This

Just as the advertising agencies showed a sign of the times, changes at the Arkansas Advertising Federation reveal the unusual market as well.

Follow this:

Suzanne Miles, former marketing director for the Gazette, was first vice president for AAF until she left to take a position with the Detroit News.

Gloria Lawson, who at the time was marketing director for Brent & Sam's Cookies, was asked to fill Miles' position.

Lawson accepted but then had to decline because the position would have required her to work on the Addy award competition during the height of Brent & Sam's busy season.

Patrick O'Sullivan, who was formerly director of corporate communications at Worthen Banking Corp., took over as second vice president for AAF. When he lost his job with Worthen, O'Sullivan still stayed on with AAF. In fact, he would bring resumes to the meetings.

President Clyde Snider says AAF was on pins and needles wondering if O'Sullivan, now with Baptist Medical System, would stay as second vice president. He did.

AAF Secretary Bill Ramsey, former marketing director at KSSN, took a job out of state with KSSN-FM, 95.7 parent company, Southern Skies Corp. His position was filled temporarily by Lawson, who had lost her job at Brent & Sam's due to the economic climate.

Lawson took an ill-fated position with the Gazette. She is moving to Dallas and has submitted her resignation as secretary.

The changes make for what sounds like an unstable AAF. But with Snider at the helm for almost a year now, and with Fred Storm holding finances stable as treasurer, AAF is doing fine.

In fact, it's doing much better than the advertising market in general, which -- if it doesn't improve -- will be another interesting business to watch in 1992.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:1991: The Year in Review; advertising industry
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jan 6, 1992
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