Advertising Conferences

Here are a few of the highlights, lowlights and sidelights of the 2004 management conference of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the trade organization known as the Four A's, which was Wednesday through Friday at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach hotel here.

YOU'RE HIRED? -- One speaker during the general session on Friday -- the morning after the finale of the NBC reality series ''The Apprentice'' -- sought to capitalize on the interest in the show among executives like those attending the conference.

''Hi, Four A's,'' Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, perhaps the most notorious contestant on the series, said in a videotape played during the speech by Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive and chief creative officer at the Kaplan Thaler Group, part of the Publicis Groupe.

Spoofing her reputation as the most disliked member of the cast of ''The Apprentice,'' Ms. Manigault-Stallworth described herself as ''America's newest sweetheart.'' One attendee said her performance, displaying an eagerness to mock her intemperate image, could serve as an audition for roles in ad campaigns. Indeed, Ms. Manigault-Stallworth has filmed a commercial for Ms. Thaler's agency, for Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo.

OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY -- After Ms. Thaler ended her speech, a lively paean to ''big bang'' ideas based on her book, ''Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World'' (Currency, 2003), she sold copies of the book at a table outside the ballroom. At previous conferences, many speakers who had based their presentations on books gave the books away to audience members, though that was mostly during the advertising industry's boom years.

''If you'd like to buy her book, she'll sign it,'' said the moderator of the general session, Ron Berger, chief executive and chief creative officer at Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, part of the Euro RSCG Worldwide division of Havas.

Then, Mr. Berger added puckishly, ''If you'd like to buy the DVD of my film, it's on'' His reference was to ''The Boys of 2nd Street Park,'' a documentary for which he was a director and a producer that appeared on Showtime last October.

MIND YOUR P's AND Q's, PART I -- Mr. Berger, the 2004-6 chairman of the Four A's, punctuated his remarks with wry asides. For instance, after he introduced another speaker, Jo Muse, chairman and executive creative director at Muse Cordero Chen & Partners, Mr. Berger referred to that agency as ''M.C.C.&P.,'' then added in a deadpan, ''I don't see how you can have an agency name with that many initials.''

That allusion to the alphabet soup in which his agency swims drew appreciative laughter from the attendees, who also laughed each time a speaker referred to Mr. Berger's agency by its initial-filled name, which stands for Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer.

But the attendees won't have Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners to kick around for much longer; Euro RSCG Worldwide plans to simplify the name, most likely replacing the ''MVBMS'' with ''in New York.''

MIND YOUR P's AND Q's, PART II -- That penchant for Madison Avenue to use so many initials in agency names was also spoofed in a parody commercial played during the speech on Thursday by August A. Busch IV, president of the Anheuser-Busch division of the Anheuser-Busch Companies.

After discussing a humorous radio campaign for Bud Light beer, which salutes fictitious ''Real men of genius'' like wearers of bad toupees, Mr. Busch played a mock radio commercial paying tribute to ''Mr. and Mrs. Four A's Management Conference Attendees.'' The spot teased agencies like Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, agency companies like the WPP Group and even the Four A's itself.

A stern-voiced announcer, the same one from the real ''Real men'' commercials, proclaimed, ''One less 'A' and you'd be changing tires on the freeway.'' The fake spot also pretended to honor the attendees for their willingness ''in an industry usually opposed to unnecessary travel'' to come to ''gloomy South Beach.''

ARE HAPPY DAYS HERE AGAIN? -- The weather in South Beach was of course far from gloomy, a description that also fit the mood of the estimated 330 attendees of the conference. They were upbeat, maybe even ebullient, mirroring the emerging consensus that although the first three months were ''somewhat soft,'' according to O. Burtch Drake, president and chief executive of the agency association, the industry is finally recovering after three tough years.