EUROPE: A voice of reason in advertising

With European advertising bodies pulling in different directions, what is needed is a clear industry voice. The appointment of Eaca President Bernd Michael may provide this.

Mention is often made in this column of industry associations and the role that they play in representing the interests of the advertising and marketing communities. Given the proliferation of such groups and the acronyms that represent them, is there evidence that they are more than just an alphabet soup of well-meaning, though ineffectual, professional bodies, at a national or European level?

Since assuming the post of director-general of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) in August, Hamish Pringle has brought vigour to the task of promoting and defending the interests of those involved in advertising and marketing. An upgraded website and enhanced services, e-mails to those working within IPA-member agencies and the press, and the championing of industry causes, have all contributed to raising advertising’s profile and credibility, both in its traditional areas and in those of evolving technologies such as the Internet. Most recently, for instance, the IPA has been vocal in representing the industry’s point of view at EU-level in relation to the use of cookies in enhancing communication between websites and their users.

Similarly, the “Semaine de la Publicité” (Week of Advertising), organised by the French advertising agency association AACC, has this month succeeded in communicating the activities and concerns of its members to a wider audience. In addition to coverage within the trade press, interviews and articles related to the event have appeared in major national news titles such as Le Monde and Le Figaro. The Week also provided a showcase for the award of this year’s “Effies”, to honour advertising campaigns that have been particularly successful. In the current economic climate, the promotion of an award scheme that highlights the role that communications play could hardly have been more timely.

On an international level, the European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA) finds itself on the threshold of a new era under its recently appointed president, the German Bernd Michael.

In addition to placing Germany in a more central role in European advertising – a role which, he believes, the country should occupy but has in the past held back from “through false modesty” – Michael says that he is determined to give advertising the recognition it deserves across Europe.

The task will not be easy, given that the EACA is intent on pursuing a “one voice” strategy, pooling the interests and efforts of advertisers, the media and agencies of all disciplines. Attempts to form alliances between the respective trade associations have met with resistance in the past, but Michael is determined to seize this opportunity to unite the industry in order that Brussels may have access to a single strong partner with clear ideas, rather than two or three that only represent part of the picture.

Three associations, three instances of how concerted effort by bodies representing and backed by the advertising industry can work to foster change and acceptance on both a national and a European level.

John Shannon is president of Grey International


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