Bridging Gaps

Instituting change for agencies

When Brian Swords decided to go for the position of IAPI president last year as part of a two-year term it was after he had asked himself a number of questions as to what the institute meant? Basic questions, like what does IAPI do? Does it actually have much say in how the advertising business in Ireland works? What influence could he make?

In welcoming visitors to its website, IAPI defines itself as “the trade association and professional institute for Irish advertising agencies. Its main role is to promote the highest professional and creative standards in the production of advertising, across all media. IAPI plays a key role in the industry, which is reflected in the range of its activities.”

People in agencies were also asking a lot of questions about IAPI and some of the comments made in response were none too kind. Some folk felt that IAPI was a talk shop where words were cheap and actions limited. Others felt the institute had not been run properly day-to-day for some years and had become a body lacking direction and drive.

While Swords prefers to kick such points of criticism to touch he is unequivocal in saying that IAPI needed to reassess its role – and quickly. The institute had been involved in a number of areas of activity which most people felt was largely none of their business; events like the Sharks awards in Kinsale and the Adspend industry research.

Staff at IAPI were giving a lot of time to the Sharks, two months or more, Swords said. Adspend meant having an in-house research team which really IAPI had no business doing. So IAPI removed itself from the Sharks. They kept a foot in but handed over the running of the festival to a grouping largely comprising agency and production interests.

Swords accepts that marketing and advertising needs to make its voice heard in the wider business community. The dearth of marketers on boards of major companies has been mentioned a lot down the years but still the gap between saying and doing persists. In an economic context, Ireland has moved from manufacturing to sales and marketing.

“Marketing became the thing of the Nineties,” Swords said. “It's still young and evolving into gaining a place in the upper echelons of business. Our responsibility in advertising is to represent the value of what we do to marketing directors and, of course, accountants. Procurement people have put a far greater squeeze on the value of what we do.”

The big showcase event for IAPI in getting the message across about why advertising should be taken seriously is the biennial Adfx. First launched in Ireland in 1996 and modelled on what the IPA was doing in the UK, AdFx is, in the words of former IAPI president, Lynne Tracey, local market evidence of the effectiveness of advertising.

The idea is based on proven impact on consumer behaviour and attitudes and promotes advertising as an effective and efficient marketing tool. The criteria relates to a strategic idea, a strong creative execution and the link between the two and how these points were implemented in the plan. 2008 was a record-breaking year for Adfx with 68 entries.

This year, IAPI hopes to better that. Entrants are advised that when making a submission they treat it like a new business pitch and that the brief is followed in line with the entry guide. Crucial too is how an entry is written, how the story is told and the data provided.

Entries are treated with the utmost confidentiality and the awards depend on clients allowing cases to be written in detail. Entry is open to all IAPI members and advertisers, whose campaigns are created by IAPI member agencies that ran from the end of June 2008 to the end of March this year. The closing date for entries is Thursday, August 12th.

Brian Swords


A business graduate from the University of Limerick (UL), Brian Swords worked in the marketing department of C&C from where he joined the drinks group's ad agency, Dimension. There he met Chris Cawley and David Nea, who went on to found Cawley Nea and later sealed a deal with the Omnicom network to become Cawley Nea\TBWA.

Although he dabbled in media, his forte was in account handling. Nowadays, as the agency's managing director, he still has a hands-on role. He believes it is essential for him to be involved with the agency's full range of clients on a day-to-day basis and among the accounts he works closest to are McDonald's and Topaz.

This year's judges include Richard Russell, creative director, DDB London; Ed McDonald, chief executive, Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI); Gurdeep Puri, founder, The Effectiveness Partnership in the UK and Karen Hand, director, Curly Enterprises. Judging will be in two rounds with a shortlist released in September.

The Adfx gala evening, at which a special guest will preside, will be in the Shelbourne hotel on Thursday, October 14th. Tickets will be available online from July. Special guest at Adfx 2008 was British writer and one-time ad man, Sir Salman Rushdie.

The first Adfx grand prix winner was theSunday Independentwith a campaign by Irish International in 1996. This was followed two years later by C&C's Club Orange work created by Cawley Nea. In 2000, the grand prix winner was Bulmers Cider by Youngs. In 2002, the grand prix went to the National Safety Council and McCann Erickson Belfast. Club Energise Sport by Cawley Nea\TBWA won out in 2004. In 2006, Magners Irish Cider and Youngs was the winner. Two years ago,the grand prix went to Green Isle's Donegal Catch and IIBBDO. Swords said that adland can point to a bank of empirical evidence to show how advertising contributes in a practical way to a client's bottom line.

There are now 50 members in IAPI, which some people regard as being a bit on the high side given the size of the market. Member fees are based on agency revenue and turnover and that too has been a bone of contention in some quarters, notably the larger groups.

Swords said the current IAPI board would be representative of about 70 per cent of the employee base in adland. Members from media agencies include Liam McDonnell, Aegis Ireland; Bill Kinlay, Group M; Graham Taylor, GT Media and Tim Griffiths, OMD.

Then there are the management/client service executives: Orlaith Blaney, McCann Erickson; Tony Caravousanos, Young Euro RSCG; Miriam Hughes, DDFH&B-JWT; Padraig Burns, Publicis QMP; Carolyn Odgers, Chemistry and Gervaise Slowey, Ogilvy.

From these board members, two task forces were set up to work for all of last year on tackling issues related to advertising codes for alcohol and food and drinks products aimed at children. IAPI hired an external consultant, Jacqueline Hall, to help them on the lobbying front. She has worked on public affairs campaigns for McDonald's.

Swords defends the industry in self regulating. He pointed to the CCCI copy clearance committee which was chaired by Mary Lambkin from UCD. The pre-vetting system had 1,000 submissions in the first quarter of this year alone. There were only three complaints upheld last year. Blunt instruments – such as further restrictions on marketing – are not a substitute for effective enforcement of existing legislation or controls in other areas.

IAPI accepts the fact that there needs to be a balance between advertised nutritional foods and those high in fat, sugar and salt. It supports co-regulation and a model similar to what they have in the UK. But for the Ofcom model to work here it would mean making changes, helped by the likes of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

“There's still need for clarification in three areas,” Swords said. “Firstly, what is the model of nutrient profiling to be adopted. Secondly, there is the issue of scheduling and finding out if the definition of children's airtime needs to be amended and on what basis. Thirdly, we would need to look at revising the codes, including greater claims scrutiny.”

Swords said that for any regulation to be effective it would have to take account of changing media and viewing habits. A report on viewing habits in the Western world by London agency Research Now showed that Irish youngsters were second only to kids in the US in the amount of time they spend watching TV and playing with games consoles.

Irish parents estimated that their offspring spent an average of 15.1 hours a week watching TV or playing computer games. A study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported that a diet of food products endorsed in ads would provide 2,560 per cent of the recommended daily servings for sugars, 2,080 per cent for fat, 40 per cent for vegetables, 32 per cent for dairy and 27 per cent for fruits.

Advertisers face some strong opposition from certain quarters. Professor Joe Barry of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the TCD Centre for Health Sciences has made repeated calls for a total ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship. Barry has accused the advertising industry of having an unhealthy influence over public policy in this area. He said most professional medical bodies and those working in the field understood the influence of alcohol advertising, particularly on younger people.

Ireland already has some of the toughest laws on drinking in the EU, but the Irish Medical Association has backed the British Medical Association's call for an end to all alcohol advertising. It is an issue which will not go away. There will be many more calls on IAPI to lobby hard in support of allowing self-regulation continue as we know it.

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