OPINION: Should advertising take more care of its image?

Sir Michael Perry’s defence of advertising before a meeting of ministers organised by the Advertising Association and Department of Trade and Industry is both eloquent and provocative (page 34). We concur heartily with most of what he said - while noting how the advertising of his own company, Unilever, appears to miss some of the targets he set.

Sir Michael Perry’s defence of advertising before a meeting of ministers

organised by the Advertising Association and Department of Trade and

Industry is both eloquent and provocative (page 34). We concur heartily

with most of what he said - while noting how the advertising of his own

company, Unilever, appears to miss some of the targets he set.



The sadness is that as outgoing president of the AA he feels compelled

to make such an address at all. The reason lies in the gist of his text:

‘Advertising is not good at advertising itself.’ An issue more pertinent

now than ever before with a general election looming and increasing

interference by the EU in Britain’s internal regulation.



But advertising is not alone in its weakness. At various times

terrestrial TV, publishing, cable and satellite and the newspaper

industries have all raised questions as to their understanding of media

and promotions when it comes to doing it for themselves. Radio is the

honourable recent exception.



However, advertising does have its champions in the shape of our trade

bodies. In fact, other industries, notably PR, think adland more than

capable of looking after itself by comparison. Sadly, this is not good

enough.



Advertising is a classic dog-eat-dog industry. No agency in the UK

enjoys more than 5 per cent of the total marketplace. For all our trade

bodies’ fine words there will always be a rogue agency prepared to break

with agreed pitch guidelines or take a business for a percentage point

of commission less while others bang on about establishing fee

structures. And in the wake of the unseemly public nature of events such

as the Maurice Saatchi deb‰cle, advertising is an easy target for the

press.



The challenge for Perry’s successor, George Bull of GrandMet, is to keep

the industry singing from the same songsheet and to prove to the greater

business community that adland is not entirely flaky.



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