How to benefit by association

The decision by some of Germany’s larger agencies, notably TBWA and Springer & Jacoby, to withdraw their membership of GWA, the advertising agency association, comes amid a period of debate, not only in Germany but across Europe, on the role trade associations play within the industry.

A number of reasons appear to have prompted these withdrawals. However, the core issue is how these associations can continue to effectively represent their members’ interests at a time of accelerating change in the industry, both at a national, and increasingly, international level.

By their nature, agency associations attract a wide range of opinions and interests. It’s only natural this should lead to conflict at times. One key role of any industry association is to provide a forum where such issues can be debated. Like the communications industry itself, it is from constructive conflict that creative initiatives emerge to drive business forward.

But ironically the German defections have come at a time when the GWA is engaged in one such initiative, having secured about DM21.5m (7m) in media availability from the country’s leading TV stations to air its “Werbung fr die Werbung” (Advertising for advertising) campaign. It aims to inform the German public on the benefits of commercial free speech.

Across Europe, national agency associations are involved in initiatives designed to strengthen the public voice of the communications industry and the business standing of its members. In Spain, for example, the Asociacion Española de Agencias de Publicidad is taking a stand against “pitchitis” – the growing tendency of advertisers to call frequent unremunerated creative pitches.

The International Advertising Association is also undertaking pioneering work in putting the case for advertising in the nascent economies of Eastern Europe.

It is both legitimate and desirable that Europe’s advertising agencies continue to present their differing points of view within the context of industry institutions. Through their actions, associations promote the health of a vibrant communications community.

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