AAR defends 17 per cent increase in subscription price

The AAR has defended its decision to impose a 17 per cent increase in its subscription rate to media, direct and creative agencies, by pointing out it is the first time the rate has risen in more than two years.

Paul Phillips, the director of media at the AAR, said the AAR's media prices had until now remained stable at £6,000, and that the additional £1,000 would be used in marketing and new-business activity that would generate more business for agencies.

However, some agencies have expressed concern that this fee hike has come at a bad time, given the current economic climate. One agency source said it was disappointing that the AAR had increased rates without explaining where the extra was going, while another said it was particularly galling given that the levels of new business had been quite disappointing. One said: "It's hard for them to justify this, and they haven't generated much new business over the past year."

Kerry Glazer, the managing director of the AAR, said: "We have strengthened our commitment to agencies by increasing our marketing spend, up by 30 per cent in 2002 and by a further 30 per cent this year. This is to ensure that when the market lifts the agencies will be well placed to reap the benefits of increased numbers of briefs coming to them through the AAR."

As a sweetener, the AAR is offering agencies free subscription to its new-business database, which was previously only available to database subscribers.

Competition in the intermediary market has become more intense of late, with other organisations including the Haystack Group and the media auditors vying for a share of the market. The AAR differs to its competitors in that it charges an annual fee rather than a retrospective introduction fee and Phillips said this means the AAR could have a better knowledge of the agency world.

Another new-business director said that compared with the cost of other marketing events and introduction fees, the AAR fee represented good value, adding: "Compared to the cost of going on the Oriana, £7,000 to get on pitches represents reasonably good value."

Phillips concluded: "If you don't want to take part, you don't have to."