PERSPECTIVE: IAA congress will not duck from the issues that matter

Covering international advertising congresses broadens your experience in the most unexpected ways.

Covering international advertising congresses broadens your

experience in the most unexpected ways.

I’ll not forget one such gathering in a lawless and corrupt Manila where

visitors to the congress centre were greeted with a sign reminding them

to check in their guns at reception.

Nor the attempted political assassination only a few hundred yards from

my hotel in which a local councillor’s driver was gunned down by a

passing motor-cyclist.

I’ve been scared shitless on the way to congress sessions in the back of

Cairo taxis whose drivers seem to be the inheritors of the kamikaze

spirit and determined to take you with them on their final mission.

At the other end the scale, I’ve pondered the consequences of

conspicuous consumption while stranded in Seoul where more than two

million Hondas, Daewoos and Hyundais ensure that the eight-lane highways

of South Korea’s capital are permanently gridlocked.

So what of London, the city that will host the International Advertising

Association’s world congress next month? True, the place has its pockets

of poverty, although nothing on the Manila scale.

London today has a palpable air of self-confidence on the back of a

booming economy. More workers than ever before pack the trains into


Probably no figure encapsulates this better than the latest addition to

the speaker’s list - Hans Snook, the chief executive of Orange,

Britain’s third-largest mobile phone firm.

As a winner of one of the licences for the third generation of mobile

phones, Orange is at the vanguard of the new consumerism that London

epitomises. From 2002, Orange and others will be offering a

mind-boggling range of services via the mobile. Fast internet access,

e-commerce, video clips, games, entertainment and advertising will all

be available at the touch of a button.

The pace of change is exciting and breathtaking.

Yet my mind goes back to those conference delegates running a gauntlet

of begging children - some no older than six - on their way to listen to

WPP’s chief executive, Martin Sorrell. Moreover, last year’s Seattle

riots are the manifestation of a widespread concern that global

corporations are growing more powerful than national governments.

That’s why I like the format of the IAA congress which recognises that

the new-media explosion, seismic social change and the trade imbalance

throw up conundrums about ethics, environmental and social

responsibility that marketers can’t duck.

Some harsh questions will need to be asked and answered at the IAA

congress. The only drawback - if that’s what you’d call it - is that

delegates won’t have had their minds concentrated by the sight of

cardboard shelters and open sewers on their way from the airport.


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