Sir Michael Perry’s defence of advertising before a meeting of ministers
organised by the Advertising Association and Department of Trade and
Industry is both eloquent and provocative (page 34). We concur heartily
with most of what he said - while noting how the advertising of his own
company, Unilever, appears to miss some of the targets he set.
The sadness is that as outgoing president of the AA he feels compelled
to make such an address at all. The reason lies in the gist of his text:
‘Advertising is not good at advertising itself.’ An issue more pertinent
now than ever before with a general election looming and increasing
interference by the EU in Britain’s internal regulation.
But advertising is not alone in its weakness. At various times
terrestrial TV, publishing, cable and satellite and the newspaper
industries have all raised questions as to their understanding of media
and promotions when it comes to doing it for themselves. Radio is the
honourable recent exception.
However, advertising does have its champions in the shape of our trade
bodies. In fact, other industries, notably PR, think adland more than
capable of looking after itself by comparison. Sadly, this is not good
Advertising is a classic dog-eat-dog industry. No agency in the UK
enjoys more than 5 per cent of the total marketplace. For all our trade
bodies’ fine words there will always be a rogue agency prepared to break
with agreed pitch guidelines or take a business for a percentage point
of commission less while others bang on about establishing fee
structures. And in the wake of the unseemly public nature of events such
as the Maurice Saatchi deb‰cle, advertising is an easy target for the
The challenge for Perry’s successor, George Bull of GrandMet, is to keep
the industry singing from the same songsheet and to prove to the greater
business community that adland is not entirely flaky.