Kate Harris, the director of NABS, is in typically upbeat mood. Her
year-long evangelising for the charity is set to reach a peak with the
forthcoming NABS week.
Kicking off on 5 June, the week's activity will aim to highlight NABS'
range of services, while sending the message that the charity is moving
on by unveiling a new identity to reflect the business it serves. "It's
about setting the record straight, dispelling myths and reminding people
that NABS is for everyone," says Harris.
And people need reminding, as certain misconceptions still surround the
organisation. While everyone knows of Peterhouse, its retirement home
housing elderly industry veterans, knowledge of the charity's other
offerings across its broad spectrum can be patchy. Harris knows this as
well as any. "When I got to NABS I was surprised at the extent of work
it does," she confesses.
Harris joined NABS in May 2000 after a lengthy career in
She started in new business at KHBB in 1983, moving into account
management and then leaving for Leagas Delaney in 1994. There she worked
on the Adidas business, before moving to the BBC account and working on
the award-winning "Perfect Day" ad.
In March 1998 she moved to Mellors Reay and, after it merged with Grey,
ran the Jersey Tourism account before joining NABS.
Though the National Advertising Benevolent Society was established in
1913 to specifically look after the interests of the advertising
community, it now addresses the needs of the entire communications
"We're not just about the A in NABS," as Harris puts it.
NABS offers welfare help to anyone in the industry in times of crisis
such as illness or financial hardship. It also has a helpline offering
assistance, a career exchange, and counsellors who offer impartiality
and confidence over any employment issue.
To Harris, the organisation is "a professional life-support system".
However, NABS has been criticised in the past for failing to encourage
the involvement of clients and women and for failing to modernise.
"We're redefining our remit," agrees Harris. "The industry changes and
we've got to keep up with it."
Harris says the charity is evolving to embrace issues such as dotcom
fallout and the lack of women creatives. To do this, Harris is trying to
make sure the team of 18 people at NABS stays close to the industry.
"If you're involved at the start, you can be more involved in the
prevention, rather than just the cure," she says earnestly.
And involved she is. Jeremy Bullmore, president of NABS and a director
of WPP, says: "Kate loves NABS and helping people. There's a blazing
genuine sincerity about her and she has a shining enthusiasm for the
This enthusiasm to evolve NABS has seen Harris increasing fundraising
activity and bringing in a finance person to look after the books. She's
also tried to give NABS more business focus over the past year and sees
building relationships with the IPA and publicity associations across
the nation as another way of increasing its profile. She's also making
changes from within. "Internally, we're getting more focused at what we
do," she says.
And externally, the NABS calendar of events continues, including rugby
sevens, cricket, racing and the battle of the bands. In a departure from
past years, Harris will be starting to encourage agencies to bring
clients to events.
Accusations of outdated practice remain, especially in regard to the
annual NABS boxing night. "I know it's contentious, particularly among
women," says Harris of the event. "But it raises pounds 600,000 and
while we're working on developing new events, we don't have the luxury
to get involved in that politically correct debate."
And although it might seem easy to be critical of the status quo, it's
another thing to actually make the changes. "Often the suggestions
people make means we make less money," she says candidly, though her
ideas for future events include using football.
So what's next for the ebullient Harris? "It would be wrong to say I
hadn't thought further forward. But there's so much for me to do at
NABS," she says enthusiastically.
There's no doubt that Harris is on a mission to dispel the
preconceptions of NABS as dated. "What I hear about NABS from other
people is that we're moving it forward in people's minds. I feel it's
definitely moving on," she says positively.
"This coming year we need to be even more public about what we do, and
say it loud and proud." Something which Harris seems particularly