Trade Bodies Rule

What the heck has happened to the industry’s trade bodies? And can we all have a sip of whatever it is they’ve been drinking?

Once upon a time I was pleased to represent the agencies’ trade bodies (the UK’s IPA, and the EACA across Europe) on various media industry bodies – including some of the audience measurement joint industry management committees.

To be quite honest, back in the dark ages you could assume the following:

  • Those on the agency side were doing it because they wanted to, as individuals. Speaking personally, I don’t think any agency I ever worked for encouraged me to do this stuff; I did it because I was interested and thought it worthwhile. I’m certain back then the same could be said for other agency representatives.
  • On the sales side there was a deep loathing of change. New initiatives meant the risk of change. Change could reduce gross audiences. Gross audiences equalled money.
  • On the advertiser side, ISBA very largely meant Procter and Gamble – who contributed to everything (and thus got their way on most things).

You could also assume that vendor trade bodies were biased, poorly resourced and driven by a few individuals at their most powerful members. When they did do original work, it was instantly decried and very largely ignored.

Thought leadership was the province of those objective folk at the big agencies. They were forever popping up on TV, on the radio and in the national press expressing their opinions on this and that (older Cog Blog readers will remember I did more than my fair share of ‘this-ing and that-ing’).

And now look! The large network agencies are no longer thought-leading, their public utterances frequently exposed as being one or more of:

  • Self-serving
  • So far removed from their day-to-day operations as to be almost in a different building or, in one or two cases on a different planet
  • Driven by a distant holding company agenda

Meanwhile, on the advertiser side ISBA, their US-equivalent the ANA, and the global WFA are setting the pace, with the network agencies dutifully following along (or, in the case of ISBA’s original media agency framework initiative, being dragged along) in their wake. Yes, P&G is still prominent, but they are no longer alone.

The trade bodies Newsworks, Thinkbox and The Radio Centre (I’m quoting UK bodies more from familiarity and general ignorance than anything else) are driving the research agenda by doing fascinating work that advances thought and drives (or should drive) action, as Mark Ritson points out.

Consultancies like Ebiquity (remember when they used to be ‘just’ a media auditor?), and ID Comms, and individual initiatives (like Karen Nelson-Field’s work on attention and Nick Manning’s call for more responsibility in advertising) are making us all think.

Research agencies (like Kantar Media, IPSOS Connect, MESH and others) are doing original work on such as context, and how trust impacts news.

Within these debates the large media agencies are fast becoming an irrelevance. Which is not good as clients don’t pay for irrelevance.


1 Comment
  1. Brian – In the past few years there have been several blockbuster stories about the advertising industry: e.g., ad fraud; brand safety; viewability issues; kickbacks; billing irregularities; dodgy metrics; and corruption. Not a single revelation has emanated from the people who are the closest to the problems — the agencies. How can this be possible? They are either willfully ignorant of the problems or complicit in them. This is why prudent clients no longer trust us.

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