Interpublic chairman Michael Roth today presided over a crisp, 31-minute (with video reel) annual meeting in New York, quickly dealing with the top concern of the estimated 150 shareholders in attendance: How did he get a black eye?

michael rothImmediately diving into that issue, Roth said the shiner may prove he's willing to fight hard for clients, or that the ad/PR conglom has a very active board. His personal favorite:"You should have seen the other guy!"

He then fessed up, saying recent eye surgery is the reason for the black eye, a letdown for some of the people at the session held in the auditorium of the McGraw-Hill Building in New York City.

Keep Head Down

In his presentation, Roth referred to the continuing fallout connected with the breakup of the Publicis/Omnicom merger, which has sucked up most of the oxygen in the ad/PR press.

IPG "prefers to keep its head down and let the press write about other companies," said Roth.

CFO Frank Mergenthaler told the JPMorgan investment conference in Boston on May 19 that his company didn’t see a "massive client flight" from Publicis/Omincom, but it did receive a pick-up in resumes from uneasy talent at the former suitors.

The parent of Weber Shandwick, DeVries, Cassidy & Assocs., pmk.bnc, Rogers & Cowan and GolinHarris is "in the strongest financial position that its been in for many years," according to Roth.

The company has succeeded on multi-team pitches because it "deals with the needs of clients rather than meeting our own silo needs." Roth said IPG has won four of its last five holding company pitches, including the recent Microsoft pickup.

Challenged on Pay

During a Q&A, a single shareholder had questions for Roth in the area of compensation.

After complimenting IPG for compiling a "diverse, talented and brilliant" board, the questioner challenged the $225K fees/benefits paid to board members.

Roth said IPG was in line with compensation guidelines for board pay in the communications sector, hardly ranking in the top level.

In noting that Roth’s incentive-driven compensation package exceeded $10M, the shareholder asked if he felt worthy of his bonus since IPG failed to achieve target goals for margin growth. Roth said that was a "fair question" and explained that his bonus is also based on other targets that were met.

After adjourning the meeting, Roth left the stage and talked with the questioning shareholder. The long-haired, shorts-wearing dissenter from New Jersey, who feels IPG's proxy statement is good bus reading material, may have used that quality face time to express his dismay that lox wasn’t served during the pre-conference buffet.

He made the same request last year.