campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 30 October 2009 12:00AM
The curtains are being drawn at the end of an incredibly tough year for the ad, media and communications industries. Probably the toughest ever, in fact. Inevitably lots of businesses have contracted and some have disappeared altogether.
Individually, it's affecting us all to varying degrees. For those of us who are either lucky enough or strong enough to survive, the downturn is a "grounding" experience.
We are learning that anything can happen to anybody, and at any time. Those who aren't as lucky or strong are facing up to potentially more serious problems.
Many of these people will pick themselves up, dust themselves down, refocus their goals and move on. Some will find it more daunting and they will look to their former colleagues within the industry for some help with their next steps.
For a few, the implications could be worse and financial concerns could arise. Combine this with health-related issues and we could be talking about consequences that are terribly sad and tragic. These issues encapsulate why we need Nabs - the National Advertising Benevolent Society.
But Nabs is not only there for the worst affected; it's there for anyone who seeks advice in the communications industry. Somehow, we've managed to kid ourselves that people in our industry don't need or deserve support. How do I know this? Well, I confess I was one of those that doubted the merits of Nabs. My cliched thinking was: "Why should I support a creative director who develops a drug habit and can't afford to put petrol in the Porsche anymore?"
Upon investigation, I found the services Nabs provides are very different to what I believed. I felt foolish having held such views, a bit like when you've argued a point strongly only to find out later that your key facts were wrong.
But then I realised that I was misinformed and probably not alone - was this ignorance all my fault? In truth, Nabs hasn't been great at communicating who it helps, why and how. Ironic, given that it's a charity representing the advertising and communications industry, but probably because it was focusing more on those individuals in need of support.
For example, how many of us know Nabs will be 100 years old in four years' time? How many of us know that 1,500 of us called the confidential helpline last year? How many of us are aware that 361 beneficiaries were supported and how many of us know that the careers team helped 480 individuals? I didn't.
Nabs needs and deserves to be respected, cherished and championed by the industry. It needs to be the industry's conscience. In an era when our market has changed from a cottage industry into a global network, it is the one organisation that links us together and ensures we retain a strong sense of community.
I suppose this is a rallying call. I hope it's the start of something new and exciting. A new chief executive will be appointed soon who will develop a vision and strategy to make us feel responsible and proud of "our" charity.
Of course, let's not forget that Nabs isn't broken. There are many people and organisations who care passionately about it and do such a fantastic job: the Big Bash committee, Wacl, the Manchester Publicity Association, the Rugby Sevens committee, the IPA, the brilliant Nabs staff, the trustees, the patrons, the Finance Council and the staff and trustees at the Peterhouse Retirement Complex, along with many in the industry who have in some way engaged with the charity.
I've met many of those involved and have been totally taken aback by how passionately these people feel about Nabs. So far, it's been a really humbling experience being involved. The comment that most struck a chord with me in my first 100 days, though, came from Allan Rich, who said when asked why should the industry care: "Well, Nick - if you can't help your friends and colleagues when they need a hand, then who can you help?" And I think most of us would probably agree.
If you do, then please help Nabs by completing some online research your chief executives and managing directors will hopefully be sending on to you soon. It's your chance to let the Nabs team know what you think so we can celebrate our 100-year anniversary in four years' time fit and ready to serve a new generation.
Thank you in advance and if you or your generation can help in the meantime, please let me know via www.nabs.org.uk.
- Nick Bampton is the managing director of Viacom Brand Solutions and the chairman of Nabs.
WHAT DOES THE NEXT GENERATION THINK OF NABS?
- Selina Osborn, account director, Publicis
"Nabs. What does it stand for? What does it do? Having agreed to write about my impression of them, I realise I don't know much about them at all after seven years in the industry. And yet, I do know they have a handy flat-share list, hold exciting fundraising events, and are there to support and give advice to those who need it.
"But there must be more to it than this; hearsay tells me we need them and they do an important and much-needed job, but I'd love to understand why. Trouble is, unless the day comes that I need to turn to them for their support, there's no real reason for me to find out more. I, and I'm sure many others, would welcome some insight into what they do, what the money goes towards when they fundraise and what we can approach them for. I've not seen the flat-share list for years; does it still exist?"
- Mark Graeme, account director, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
"Ah, Nabs. Everyone's favourite faceless ad-charity organisation. Often the target for jokes of advertising retirement homes, full of planners who've consumed too much data, creatives whose minds have wandered off-brief and everyone else clinking G&Ts while muttering of how much simpler life was before the days of ARG blogging. "But whether you subscribe to the view that Nabs is vital, surplus, naive or necessary, all I can urge you is, give them a try. I did this year and it changed my life. Replying to an unassuming company-wide Nabs circular led to a charity trip to India, new levels of public humiliation for fundraising, and an extremely humbling and interesting week working in a Bangalore slum.
"They're here to help, and short of reciprocating that help financially or creatively, the very least we can do is pay attention to their cause."
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk