When the Marketing Agencies Association announced last month that it was cancelling its annual awards beano and would instead deliver awards to winners at their place of work, it seemed that all was not well. Presumably only a few insiders knew just how bad things were.
Earlier this month the trade body, which claims 100 members, was put into the hands of the receivers Carter Backer Winter, and sadly the MAA’s staff have now been told they are being made redundant. Hopes of the receivers to find a buyer for the company have not been successful and so what assets it has – and these aren’t thought to be substantial – will be sold off to pay the list of creditors.
The human tragedy is obvious – six people are now without jobs (including its relatively recently-installed managing director Rebecca Crook, who gave up her job as chief marketing officer at The Bio Agency). But there’s also a list of suppliers, including those who delivered the training and development courses for agency staff for which the MAA became famous, as well as other support companies and individuals that have been left without payment.
How far the MAA’s star has fallen – and in so quick a time. Under the MAA’s previous managing director, the flamboyant and adept self-publicist Scott Knox, the organisation was always prepared to put its head above the parapet and defend the interests of its members, particularly in the face of what it saw as poor pitch practice. Beiersdorf, Huawei, and The Science Museum were all called out for what the MAA deemed inappropriate behaviour to agencies – Knox even challenged marketers to "wrestle back control" from their procurement departments.
There’s a sad irony in all this somewhere given the precarious financial position that the MAA has found itself in and the list of people who are now left without (incidentally no fault of this should lie at the feet of Crook who presumably took the job in good faith – these problems tend to develop over the longer-term).
It’s also sad that the industry is left without a plucky little trade body that was always prepared to stick up for the little guys (its members tended to be smaller agencies that either couldn’t afford or didn’t want to pay the IPA’s fees).
While all thoughts must be with those who lost their jobs, who’s going to speak up for the smaller agencies now?
Jeremy Lee is a contributing editor at Campaign