The advertising industry is launching its own PR campaign by way of setting up an Institute for Advertising Ethics. The sector has always had a negative image and the likes of the "Mad Men" series are certainly surfing that tide to... sell. With the market staging a robust recovery the industry is planning ahead and wants to tweak its reputation. Here's how.
Teaming Up With Missouri's Reynolds Journalism Institute
The push comes from Wally Snyder, President Emeritus of the American Advertising Federation and former Federal Trade Commission lawyer, the Huffington Post quoted the Associated Press as saying. The AAF has teamed up with Missouri's Reynolds Journalism Institute to launch the initiative.
Mission: Reputation Management
The Institute's main mission, according to the report, is to develop a "voluntary code of ethics, honoring businesses for ethical behavior and examining the effects of social media and digital technology on the ad world." It will reflect Snyder's vision of the industry's goal as "to provide commercial information that will assist consumers in their purchase decisions in a truthful, fair and cost-effective manner." The industry spent $125 billion in 2009.
The AAF is evidently a Who's Who of the Ad industry, with heavyweights sitting on its board, including PepsiCo, FedEx, AOL, JC Penney... but also publishers such as the New York Times, USA Today, AdWeek, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal... as well as agencies like Omnicom, Young & Rubicam, BBDO or Saatchi & Saatchi. So it's no wonder that the Institute for Advertising Ethics also has big names at its helm too - Procter & Gamble, Omnicom, Interpublic or Ketchum.
First, Convince Own Peers
The industry itself is sceptical as to the real effects of the Institute. As commented Jim Edwards, a former Adweek managing editor, "History does not suggest that these things catch on very well," he said. "There's a structural problem in the advertising business. The entire industry is engaged in a race to the bottom. Whoever can do it the cheapest and the fastest wins." He pointed out that there have already been four similar attempts at setting up an industry-wide code of ethics.
AP cites a A 2007 Gallup survey showing that "just 6% of respondents ranked advertisers' ethics as 'high' or 'very high,' with 42% ranking their ethics as 'low' or 'very low.' "Because it is persuasion, advertising is viewed in a questionable way by a lot of people," said Margaret Duffy, a former ad executive now teaching at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and helping to set up the Institute.
Apparently, Snyder wants a reality TV show featuring young ad reps - a "Mad Men" for the modern age. The federation also wants to shift its industry Hall of Fame, an online entity, to a physical location in New York City.