Editorial: Solidarity the watchword for embattled Buscombe

Ten months into her tenure as the Advertising Association's chief executive, Baroness Peta Buscombe finds herself walking a tightrope.

Persuading members to fork out the extra funding, essential if the industry is to face down its opponents, while not leaving the poorest among them feeling marginalised is a delicate balancing act.

That the AA needs more money is beyond question. Buscombe and her 12-strong team are massively overstretched and largely deskbound. They need to get out more if the case for advertising is to be made effectively among politicians and opinion-formers. What's more, the AA cannot counter the headline-grabbing, but frequently spurious, research published by opposing pressure groups without robust research of its own. And that costs serious money.

By raising the minimum annual membership fee to £10,000, the organisation runs the risk of some smaller trade bodies pulling out. Indeed, it may feel this is a price worth paying if it means that its council is pared down to a more manageable size and comprises those bodies fully committed to making the AA more proactive.

This, though, is a risky strategy. Failing to keep all its members on board would seriously undermine the AA's credentials as the "big tent" and diminish its claim to represent the broad church of advertising and marketing. This is what provides the AA with its power and influence.

The dilemma confronting the AA is that the trade bodies probably least able to afford a membership fee hike may be those representing the new media areas that will be the key battlegrounds of the future.

In a sense, the AA's title is an anachronism. The organisation is there to defend, not advertising alone, but the entire range of commercial communication. The fact is that all the marketing disciplines are interrelated: the AA must not forget that an attack on one communication discipline is an attack on all of them. In the AA's case, Benjamin Franklin's words remain as apposite as ever. "We must all hang together," he advised, "or assuredly we shall all hang separately."


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