According to a report in the Financial Times, many trade associations need to do a “better job of representing their member companies or otherwise fold, to leave the way clear for others.”
This is the principal conclusion of a review commissioned by the Trade Association Forum, backed by the Department of Trade and Industry, of about 300 UK trade associations.
While this may be broadly true, it is gratifying to be able to point to examples, whether in the UK or elsewhere, where trade associations have intervened successfully on behalf of their members.
Some time ago, I commented on an initiative by the Spanish advertising agency association, AEAP, to bring order to the advertising pitch process (MW May 7, 1998). At the time, according to AEAP President Francisco José GonzÃÂ¡lez, there was an excessive emphasis on pitches, with pitch lists becoming ever longer and pitches being held more and more frequently. The AEAP singled out government bodies as chief among the “culprits”, on account of their lack of discipline and the fact that creative pitches, though increasingly lengthy and time consuming, were generally not remunerated.
Almost three years on, the AEAP has published an update on the situation, based on a survey of its member agencies which was conducted by the marketing consultancy, Grupo Consultores.
Pitches, the survey found, are no longer the principal method of selecting an agency partner. Used in 39 per cent of cases two years ago, they are now responsible for only 24 per cent of agency selection decisions. In comparison, the proportion of decisions arising from senior-level managerial contact has risen from 33 per cent of cases to 44 per cent. The percentage of agencies competing in between four and 13 pitches a year has fallen from 78 per cent to 61 per cent, the consultants found, and the likelihood that those pitches in which they do compete will be remunerated has risen from 11 per cent to 16 per cent.
Realistically, the AEAP recognises that there is still progress to be made in some areas. Government bodies, for example, still largely refuse to remunerate creative pitches and are unlikely to do so until a single body (such as the UK’s Central Office of Information) is established. And though progress has been made on remuneration among private-sector clients, the proportion of those clients willing to recompense agencies for their creative ideas remains relatively low.
Nevertheless, the AEAP believes, the examples cited here should be welcomed by the advertising community, as they have clearly led to “a change in the way the industry goes about its business.”
This has afforded agencies more time to work with their clients, as opposed to losing that time producing campaigns for pitches which, more often than not, come to nothing. It’s a moral tale, demonstrating the beneficial changes a committed industry trade association, acting on behalf of its members, can bring about.
John Shannon is president of Grey International