31st AFA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
2006 AFA Chairman’s Address
2005 has been an outstanding year for the AFA.
When I stood here before you 12 months ago I believed we were entering an exciting period for the AFA. While the decision by the membership and the National Board to implement an accreditation program for agencies was a bold one, there were some lingering questions:
- Would it be respected by clients?
- Would agencies embrace it?
- How would the Secretariat manage the process?
Fast forward 12 months and the results speak for themselves. While the sheer number of agencies enrolled is staggering, the market’s acceptance of the program, has also been extremely pleasing.
In the US, Don Schultz is a marketing guru. He is an Emeritus Professor of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University in Illinois.
And this is just some of his commentary on our accreditation program here in Australia.
“…The Aussies seem to be leading the pack in developing some of the most needed elements to move the business ahead.”
“what the accreditation system seems to signal is that advertising - at least the advertising agency business in Australia – is finally growing up and becoming accountable.”
We need to remind ourselves why the system has received such overwhelming support. Put simply, the advertising business needs it.
When the Accountants and the CA Accreditation Scheme sponsored the Ashes last UK summer, it was a shock to see the profession that counts the numbers, doing a better job at branding and promoting value than the people who do the branding and value creation.
The CA campaign has serious implications for us. It was becoming more interesting to be an accountant, while advertising would increasingly struggle to hire outstanding graduates and give people a long term and lucrative career. Most worryingly of all, we would struggle to sound more interesting than the heavily advertised CA/CPA we sat next to at dinner parties.
At its heart, Accreditation is our vehicle to differentiate the professional agency from the others. And potentially, to generate a premium for the value created by an AFA Accredited business.
An Accredited agency is a marque of quality for the client. A trademark to demonstrate commitment to the business, professionalism, a desire to develop and train individuals and an understanding of the increasingly complex regulatory environment.
An Advisory Board has been appointed to monitor the system – to audit agency compliance and provide suggestions for improvement.
In time, we will need to decide how sharp we want the Advisory Board’s teeth to be. As a member body, the AFA cannot be both player and umpire. We must decide if we are prepared to let the Advisory Board recommend remedial action - such as removal of accreditation. And also, whether we will action the recommendation.
Realistically, we have no choice. The Advisory Board should be given full scope to ensure Accreditation has the highest standards of integrity, ethics and transparency. It must be given the power to act as it sees fit.
At last, the industry has a vehicle we can invest in - that we can promote to marketers with pride. Two of our members have helped with this – Publicis Mojo and Love Communications. The marketing campaign which commences this week will promote the value and professionalism of what we do. No longer will we be asked the question, “If advertising is so powerful - why doesn’t the industry advertise?”
Who knows? We may one day sponsor the Ashes.
In addition at last year’s AGM we committed to reviewing the AFA’s income model. Jason Buckley, the Treasurer, and the team reviewed how we could ensure the yearly membership subscription could be kept at a minimum whilst growing the AFA topline. As you know the AFA finances are now in a strong position. This is not only because of accreditation and growing membership, but because of a continuing improvement in the service culture, with the AFA producing outstanding products and services for its members.
Also we have developed a new website. It should be the home page for all of us in the industry.
We made another promise at last years AGM - to celebrate the key role that advertising has played throughout the past 50 years of television. In presenting “The Best Ads of the Past 50 Years” tonight, the AFA is helping us celebrate the many cultural milestones advertising has represented in the history of Australia.
For me, this is a wonderful example of just how important our industry body is. Not just for its role in extolling the value of advertising, educating and protecting the industry – but as a keeper of our history and a driver of the culture of the ad world we all love.
All of this doesn’t happen without the leaders of the industry contributing through the National Board and the Special Interest Groups – Healthcare, Digital, Planning and Finance.
In recognizing the increasing importance of the work of our digital and interactive agencies, the chairman of the AFA Digital Division, David Holmes, has joined the National Board.
Thank you for all of your contributions throughout the year.
A final thought.
As we rapidly move to an idea first, channel second, model, and the global networks have totally integrated marketing services businesses, the purpose and role of various industry bodies will be challenged. A single communications body with all the advantages of size and scope is perhaps, not too far away. If this is what we want, it is up to the industry leaders to demand it.