Adrian Vickers, soon to be named official cheerleader for the
International Advertising Association’s millennium world congress in
London, will need all his self-effacing charm and persuasiveness to
carry him through.
The IAA’s UK chapter, which is organising the event, is desperate to
cast aside its reputation as an old boys’ drinking club. It also wants
to improve an image still rooted in a time when being switched to
’international duties’ was the signal to agency executives to check
their pension arrangements.
Not any more. A world shrunk by the communications revolution has
produced a breed of agency senior managers running international
accounts because they chose to rather than because they were coerced
into it. But it’s this elite that the IAA admits it has failed to enroll
in sufficient numbers.
Thus a lot rides on the three-day congress in June 2000 which is
expected to draw up to 2,500 delegates. A successful event will not only
allow the UK chapter to re-invest in its training schemes but also to
grab the attention of more international account directors.
The IAA has a curious history. Born out of a lunch at New York’s Harvard
Club in April 1938, mainly to help drive US presence into emerging world
markets, it preoccupied itself with the practical problems of a
discipline still in its infancy: issues such as the standardisation of
rates, discounts and column sizes, overcoming restrictions on the
shipment of printed matter and improvements to the adaptation of
Six decades on, the IAA performs a hybrid role. In many Third World
markets, it is often the sole champion of commercial freedom of speech.
In the UK, where the Advertising Association undertakes the job, the IAA
confines itself to education and training.
So why should young international account directors sign up to the
Archie Pitcher, the UK chapter’s executive director, cites the
unrivalled networking opportunities. ’It provides international managers
with an extra dimension,’ he says. ’The IAA is a source of first-hand
information that you just can’t buy.’