Advertising Week Europe

Advertising Week Europe 2017 Official Guide

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O After stepping down from his role as chief executive of the Advertising Association, Tim Lefroy spoke with us about advertising's role in society, its effect on the economy and how "people" remain at the core of everything we do. Advertising Week Europe: You've once said your job at the AA was to be "the cheer- leader and the conscience of advertising." Can you elaborate? Tim Lefroy: The AA job is to tell advertis- ing's story—make sure policy-makers and opinion leaders understand our value and values—that they get we're well regulated and on the consumer side. Then we have to track public sensibility and moral norms— what's seen as right and wrong. 50 years ago, smoking in the office and representing women solely as domestic goddesses might have been okay, but so- ciety moved on. Culturally, ad-land has to sense the evolution of those changes and inform new standards. And we also have to evolve the rules. AWE: What do you believe is advertising's position in society today? In the economy? TL: Funnily enough, post Brexit, post truth(!), and post Trump, I think we are in a better place. People get that business confidence is important to the economy and a fragile thing. So they're less willing to see govern- ments interfere. Also, we've recently shown a willingness to up the standards in self- regulation by harmonising the very tough CAP restraint on advertising salty/sugary foods to children. And I can bore for UK advertising on the economic bit. £120BN boost to GDP, exports, jobs, and so on. AWE: Taking the political climate both in the UK and in the U.S. into consideration, what argument could you make for how advertising should position itself in the po- litical arena? TL: Brexit/ Bremain and even the US presi- dential campaigns reached giddy heights of misrepresentation and scaremongering. Our respected self-regulatory bodies should lead a new debate on acceptable standards and dignity in political campaigning. Alongside, say, the Electoral Reform Society. It's a hard route to take, but a role in society that this time perhaps we shouldn't duck. AWE: You've cited Brexit and the US presi- dential election as movements where advertising techniques were "inadequate" in facing a "persuasive counter-culture to media and ad-funded communication channels." Why do you think those tech- niques failed in both campaigns? TL: In both cases I cited a failure of the political classes to be in touch with the pop- ular mood. They ignored the fundamental marketing principles of 'interrogating the product until it reveals its strengths' (and weaknesses) before throwing money at messaging and media campaigns. AWE: There's a lot of emphasis on advertis- ing's need to continually adapt in to order to survive. What are a few of the ways the industry is most profoundly having to adapt in today's world? TL: 90% of the world's data was created in the last 18 months and the consumer has never been technically more empowered. Yet large parts of society feel the absolute opposite. So I believe the main thrust will be to better, and with more empathy, harness the data revolution. AWE: On any given workday, what was the most important issue going into the office, and what was the most important issue leaving the office? TL: On the principles of a wise French General 'to find out where my people are going—in order that I might lead them'. In this case it would be the legion of adver- tising's volunteer practitioners—and the issues would be quite wide-ranging. AWE: What's something that makes the UK advertising business unique from other areas of the world? TL: I believe we have a fabulously devel- oped media audience, probably courtesy of the BBC, as well as ad-funded press— and a great sense of irony. This enabled a world-leading creative revolution and I think that could happen again. Bear in mind, the UK also leads the world per-capita, in e-commerce. AWE: How can the advertising industry en- sure it never loses sight of the way others see it? TL: It can't. All systems, structures and organisations get stuck over time. Staying perpetually adaptive is impossible. And never is a long time. AWE: What are some of the biggest issues still facing the industry today? TL: It's all about the people. Do we attract, retain, develop the brightest, best, appro- priately diverse workforce? And balance that in the right parts of our community? The harsher commercial imperatives miti- gate against that—in a business delicately placed between the math skills and the in- tuition that has built advertising's standing as the instrument of "creating unfair com- petitive advantage!" ON THE ECONOMICS, POLITICS AND PEOPLE OF ADVERTISING AWE 2017 267

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