CLOSE-UP: Newsmaker/David Kershaw - Rocky legislative road looms for new AA chairman. Kershaw will be occupied by the fight against EC red tape, Camilla Palmer says

"It's not a schmoozy job,

the IPA president, Bruce Haines, claims, of the chairmanship of the Advertising Association, a role about to be filled by M&C Saatchi's founding partner, David Kershaw.

The sheer mechanics of the task in hand might suggest otherwise. Kershaw will lobby for the interests of 24 trade organisations, including creative and media agencies, advertisers and media owners, at both UK and European levels. It seems likely that it will draw on his considerable expertise in the networking department.

Kershaw was voted in last week, and succeeds the BMP DDB group chairman, James Best, who steps down after five years in the hot seat. The director-general, Andrew Brown, will continue in his current role - one he sees as a civil servant to the political roles of Kershaw and the Unilever chairman Sir Niall Fitzgerald, the AA's president.

Kershaw is clearly excited about the job, which will see him doing what many in the industry feel is his favourite activity - acting the diplomat.

"David is absolutely perfect for the task,

Haines says. "He understands every aspect of the industry, and is extremely aware of advertising's importance to commerce and British business.

That knowledge will come in handy at the autumn's party conferences - one of the first political set-pieces that Kershaw will attend in his new role.

Along with a firm grasp on a bulging contacts book, Kershaw has a delightfully wicked catty streak. This is illustrated in a coruscating letter to Campaign, in defence of Carlton's Martin Bowley, an old friend of Kershaw's.

Irritated by what he saw as the editorial director Dominic Mills' "personal bile", Kershaw responded, calling Mills

a tired, bitter and sad ex-editor".

Such an appetite for debate will be handy, as Kershaw will be put to the test by the issues swirling around the AA.

"In the past five to ten years, there's been an inexorable tide of people trying to impose more regulations and restrictions on advertisers,

he stresses. "The industry is under attack from all sides."

A look at the cuttings for the period shows ongoing campaigning on various freedoms, including alcohol and tobacco advertising, and marketing to children. The AA's recent successes include the publication of a European Union strategy to remove national restrictions on advertising and other commercial services.

Currently, advertisers are battling with local-market rules, such as a Greek ban on toy advertising, a total ban on advertising to children in Sweden and strict rules on direct marketing in Germany.

According to Brown, though, the most pressing issue is the one with which Kershaw is least likely to be familiar - the Green Paper on Commercial Communications, with which the European Commission plans to strengthen legislative control of advertising across the continent. "There is a real concern that the European Commission will introduce this proposed legislation, which will add another layer of regulation and bureaucracy,

he warns.

Currently, the 300-odd responses to a detailed paper have not been made public, leaving the AA in a difficult position, because it cannot predict in which direction policy will move. Kershaw admits that the experience of Brown and his team will be invaluable, as he sorts through a tangle of political jargon on the issue.

However, Kershaw can ill afford to take his eye off regulation issues at home. The Government's establishment of OFCOM, a unified regulator for the communications sector which is expected to be finalised in the Queen's Speech this autumn, should give him plenty of food for thought.

Domestic issues do not end there. Even basic questions, such as the profile of the AA within the agency community, can be areas of dispute.

"The AA has an image problem and, worryingly, doesn't have a high profile within the agency community,

the chairman of Burkitt DDB, Hugh Burkitt, says. "Most people think of the Automobile Association. Then they think of Alcoholics Anonymous,

he adds, calling for Kershaw to build up the organisation's profile among the agency community.

However, not everyone agrees that the AA should be pushing for more attention from the industry. "It's an association of associations,

Best says, "and each member association should be high-profile within its sector rather than the AA."

Brown maintains that Kershaw is the right choice to face the challenges ahead. "He has the confidence of the agency world, shown by the fact that he was unanimously approved, and he has the perception and instinct to develop close relationships with the member associations,

he says, adding that the combination of Fitzgerald as a key figure in the advertiser world and Kershaw as an equivalent from the agency sector will be "formidable".


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus