Opinion: Perspective - Say it loud: we're in advertising and we're proud

It was rather unfortunate that two of the ad industry's most prestigious awards for really clever stuff should be held on consecutive nights this week.

On Monday, the Account Planning Group put on the glitz to celebrate the cerebral; on Tuesday, the IPA hosted its Effectiveness Awards (the ones for smaller agencies) in Edinburgh. And between them, the two schemes screamed loud about the contribution this business makes both to society and to business success (and, by implication, back to society). You couldn't have wished for a more complementary set of winners.

On Monday, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's work for Sainsbury's took top honours. AMV helped to attract 1.5 million new customers for the supermarket chain, to increase profits by 43 per cent and to grow revenue by £1.8 billion in two years. You might not like the creative work, but in many ways that's the least interesting (and arguably least important) part of the story.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy's Trident campaign for the Metropolitan Police took top gong. The campaign helped fuel an 86 per cent rise in calls to the police with intelligence on gun crime. More than 400,000 people watched a video portraying the terrible consequences of gun crime. And after the campaign, gun crime in the Capital fell to its lowest level since 2001.

Consider these two examples and it's impossible to argue against advertising's powerful force for good - economic good, social good and the two are inextricably linked, of course. Then add in the IPA's punchy response to the Government's proposals for the creative industries (see our story on page 5), underlining the rich creative (in its widest and narrowest senses) contribution the industry makes culturally and artistically. All together this work builds a potent and powerfully rounded argument for why the advertising business needs to be nurtured, supported and celebrated.

Yet, yet, all this comes in the same week that the ad industry is again battered with regulatory threats. Food and alcohol advertising are under siege again this week: from Which?; from teachers wanting to curb underage drinking; from the newly formed Alcohol Health Alliance.

It's so relentless it's getting boring. Another pressure group with a narrow field of vision and the ad bit between its teeth; another set of MPs looking for votes, for something to do, for a policy to back; another group of quasi bodies hoping to justify their members' fees. Attacks on advertising are so commonplace now you hardly notice them, which is the most dangerous thing of all. Adland has always been too apathetic about threats to commercial freedoms; now apathy is in danger of becoming ignorance.

But surely we should be able to muster more energy to shout about the stuff we're proud of: the Sainsbury's, the Tridents and the dozens of other brilliant examples thrown up by the APG and IPA this week. The industry's best case studies should be given their own advertising showcase in the national and business press (perhaps supportive media owners will even donate space).

The next question is what else the industry should be doing. The prime route of attack must be through the Advertising Association. It's only through the AA that the industry (agencies, media owners, advertisers) can present a united front that underlines responsible advertising and celebrates its contribution.

But there's more agencies can be doing too. Agencies should be constantly educating their clients, not only on how to cope with increased commercial restrictions but on how to add their weight to efforts to champion the industry. The ad industry needs high profile, respected business people to speak out in praise of its business, promoting advertising's value to government, to the media, to the City. We need to rally all the support we can muster.


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