Still much to be done if we want to be 'here for good'
A view from Claire Beale

Still much to be done if we want to be 'here for good'

One IPA president of recent years told me the best strategy for making an impact in the presidential role was to do very little for the first 18 months and then make a lot of noise for the last six: "That's all anyone will remember, anyway."

I couldn’t tell you now what (if any) difference this particular president actually made to our glorious industry, so whatever it was they kept back for 18 months obviously wasn’t very good.

Anyway, in contrast, Tom Knox has come off the blocks at quite a lick. He was inaugurated before his peers on Wednesday and his manifesto for the next 24 months is set out on page 24. It’s good, in so many appropriate – and now rather fashionable – senses of the word.

Knox has studiously done the rounds asking industry leaders about what (and how) his agenda should do, so it’s a collaborative ambition. Apparently, it was CHI & Partners’ Sarah Golding who came up with the brilliant "here for good" line that Knox is building his mission around. It’s a line that neatly counters the cynicism so many people (within as well as without the industry) feel about advertising and it’s also a line that suggests a confidence in the industry’s ongoing relevance; now, more than ever, the values and the value of advertising are intricately and delicately linked.

How the industry resolves the ways it makes money with a code of conduct rooted in integrity is hard to fathom

In our post-crash world, Knox says we need systems and policies that recognise we are more than just consumers and have values beyond just our material well-being, and he reckons the ad industry is perfectly placed to help businesses articulate their contribution to the common good. It’s hard to argue with any of that, and there’s a whole generation of young advertising and marketing professionals for whom such thinking will be crucial to their continued engagement with our industry.

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of systems and policies at play in the advertising business that are (or at least are murky enough to seem) thoroughly counter to that vision. The holding companies are coming under increasing scrutiny for some of their media practices and there continues to be a feeling of mistrust from many clients.

Quite how the industry resolves some of the ways it makes money with a code of conduct rooted in integrity is hard to fathom. And the idea of any sort of code to which agencies must adhere makes me feel a little uncomfortable – it seems at odds with the brilliant, unconstrained and renegade creativity that makes the industry what it fundamentally is. But there needs to be a better match between professionalism, integrity and instinctive brilliance if we are really "here for good", and I hope Knox can pull it off.