Agencies Are 'Cockroaches,' According To One 4A's Presenter

One of the oddest presentations at today’s 4A’s Decisions conference was one of the first. The presenter was Luma Partners CEO Terrence Kawaja. 

Ostensibly, the presentation was designed to demonstrate how agency executives could drive growth and value at their shops. 

At some point early in the presentation, Kawaja recalled the great media transparency flap that occurred in 2016 after a presentation by media agency veteran Jon Mandel at an ANA conference. Mandel shared his view that many major holding company agencies had institutionalized various forms of rebates, kickbacks and indirect payment models from media suppliers that in many cases were not disclosed to agency clients.

To illustrate the point, Kawaja showed a short video of a very violent scene from Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” that was redubbed and altered visually and renamed “Sculpt Fiction.” The original scene takes place at the abode of some low-level drug dealers who cheated their boss. Hitmen Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are dispatched to dispense some rough justice.



In the altered clip that Kawaja showed, Jackson is renamed “Mr. Procurement,” and Travolta’s character becomes “FBI Agent,” a reference to reports that the FBI was looking into nontransparent media agency practices covered in the ANA report.

And “Bob Liodice,” who is seen cowering in a corner, “stars as himself.” The redone clip superimposed Liodice’s face on the actor in the original film. Agencies—the cheaters in this case—are represented by one of the drug dealers Jackson/Procurement and Travolta/FBI have come to rub out. He’s strapped to a chair between them. Jackson goes into one of his biblical tirades that he would lapse into during the original film (vengeance, fury, hellfire etc). But the words were changed to effect of, and I paraphrase, don’t mess with procurement, agencies, or you die. Jackson and Travolta then proceed to blast the guy in the chair to pieces. In the screen shot accompanying this piece, Liodice is the one slumping in the corner.

Is it me, or is this attempt to liven up a presentation really tone-deaf, given all the horrific mass shootings in this country? At least dozens, maybe hundreds of people are already dead this year due to gun violence.

Ironically, I found the video very disruptive—a main theme of this year’s 4A’s Decisions conference. And I embraced the disruption as I focused on how I’d write this part up while not paying a lot of attention to the rest of the presentation.  

Kawaja, who likened agencies to cockroaches that can’t be killed, did offer some advice for continued survival: embrace complexity, turn client opportunities into reality, and sharpen data and tech capabilities. Not that he really cares. (He also gave a nod to long-time Publicis Groupe executive Rishad Tobaccowala for coming up with the cockroach quip first). 

1 comment about "Agencies Are 'Cockroaches,' According To One 4A's Presenter".
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  1. Jim Meskauskas from Media Darwin, Inc., February 2, 2023 at 12:41 p.m.

    "The original scene takes place at the abode of some low-level drug dealers who cheated their boss." They weren't drug dealers. We never actually know who they are, but we know they took a briefcase. Some say that the briefcase holds the soul of Marsellus Wallace, others the diamonds from "Reservoir Dogs" (though that can't be possible because Mr. Pink is caught). Likely, since Tarantino is a movie nerd, its a McGuffin.

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