Remarks to AAF – Houston | "Houston's New National Connection"

By Wally Snyder, President and CEO, American Advertising Federation
11:30 a.m., Wednesday, September 19, 2007 | Junior League of Houston


Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to Houston, the Magnolia City, in the Lone Star State. It's a privilege to be with you today to share a few thoughts about "Houston's New National Connection." First, I want to thank your president, Jay Hagins, your chairman, Jay Janecek, and the entire board of directors for making me feel so welcome. Houston hospitality knows no bounds. Maybe that's why Houston is so successful. The city has shown its heart is in the right place, ever since it sheltered and nurtured displaced Katrina victims. It was an impossible task, but you showed the entire country, especially our federal government, how Americans ought to behave in a time of national crisis. And I, for one, think you deserve a round of applause for your continuing efforts.

Not only does Houston know how to take care of business on a social scale, the city is an economic powerhouse—home to almost two dozen Fortune 500 companies and dominating the state's Top 100 with a third of the listings. Houston enjoys a significant industrial base in energy, aeronautics, and technology; hosts commerce on a global scale through the Port of Houston; and boasts two of the nation's leading teaching and research institutions: Rice University and the University of Houston. So you've got a lot to be proud of, including a fantastic federation of advertising, communications and marketing professionals. Just how fantastic you are was reinforced as I perused your Web site, reading about your education scholarships, professional development and member services, and viewing photos taken at events. You guys are awesome, and you don't need me to tell you what to do because the leadership demonstrated by this organization speaks for itself. You know what you want to do, and you're doing it.

You changed your name to the American Advertising Federation – Houston, an initiative that will enhance branding on a local, regional and national level.

Houston's robust business environment and your hard work for the industry and the community make your organization one of the jewels in the AAF crown. Your federation is a perennial award winner, and now you've made a change that will surely impact your status and enhance the bottom lines. Your new brand—AAF – Houston—makes you a national organization with national connections; this expanded recognition enables you to be a national entity right here in Houston. You are now a part of more than a dozen federations whose consistent brand image with the national affiliate will elevate the prominence of the local organization. They include Cleveland, Phoenix and San Antonio. Your identity with the national organization is sure to result in increased networking, business opportunities and growth across the region, across the country, and, eventually, across the globe. We are the Unifying Voice for Advertising, and we're merging our identity because our relationship is strengthened by unity.

And in a moment I'll prove it to you.

The AAF – Houston and the AAF are dependent upon each other for growth. In order to accomplish our goals, AAF – Houston must achieve its goals. Our success nationally depends on your success locally. The American Advertising Federation is essentially a grassroots organization. That means respecting local leadership while pursuing national goals. It means you offer us direction and insight at the local and regional level, so we can act on a national level. We take our cues from you, the membership. Bottom line: The best leaders understand service. Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker, says it best: "You can get everything you want if you help enough others get what they want." We want you to continue telling us what you want and expect, and we'll do the same. We welcome members' views on any topic. That's why so much on our agenda for growth in 2008 is directly related to the needs and interests of our local members.

The American Advertising Federation is mission ready. We are always in a state of "positive transition," continuously looking for ways to improve our services and programs to members and launch new initiatives that will make you and your businesses trendsetters in a time of expanding technology and changing demographics.

The AAF believes technology, multiculturalism and branding will be the three big areas that will best help us connect to the future—a future that demands flexibility, a respect for diversity and new creativity to please clients and customers.

We continue to set new goals, news standards for the future, many of which will directly impact your business. And we continue to expand access to programs and services designed to boost the profiles and standing of local clubs in their business communities. In turn, companies owned by local members can take advantage of networking opportunities and explore new avenues of business. That's what being part of the AAF family means. That's the power of unifying the brand.

And if you go to our newly redesigned Web site at AAF.org, you will see that it is more inviting and easier to access information. There are contact links for me and all of my staff, as well as a variety of archive material, including speeches and video of past events.

A few moments ago I told you I would prove that your new connection will strengthen our unity. Evidence of this can be found at AAF.org, which, as of this moment, features our new partner, AAF – Houston.

Like I said, national recognition, local roots.

Now, here's a question we must answer together: How can we in the marketing and advertising industry take advantage of the various technologies to create better products for our clients? One of the biggest changes occurring in advertising revolves around a single technology issue—media options available in the marketplace.

We've got to get a handle on this because it impacts every face of our industry. And so my call to action to AAF – Houston is to designate a representative from your local organization to work with our national office on this problem. Details and schedules will be worked out later, but the important thing is getting the perspectives and expertise of AAF – Houston involved in this national—one might even say global—issue.

Remember, not too long ago we were all talking about the impact of creating online communities, products and services. Now, we're living it. And as the technology expands so do the possibilities. Clients have more access and want more opportunities to connect with consumers. It doesn't matter where you live or work anymore. We're all connected. This expanding array of media choices makes decision making tougher…for clients and agencies, account execs and creatives. But it also creates opportunity—an opportunity to create a detailed plan that blends traditional and new media to enhance performance. If you want to run a profitable business (and who doesn't?), you have to dig into the research, question clients about their goals and expectations and realize that the future is here and now.

The AAF is poised to provide education and training so you feel comfortable competing in cyberspace and in the traditional mode. Future seminars and guest speakers will continue to focus on integrated media plans, which maximize the bottom line, as well as recognize the value of multicultural marketing. That leads to a topic dear to my heart—diversity and inclusion—where we're working hard to speak to the needs, desires and cultures that are changing America's demographics. The AAF is dedicated to making sure you have the tools necessary to keep multiculturalism an integral part of your business strategy.

You all know how I feel about this subject. For me, diversity is a legacy issue. I want our "inclusive DNA" to spread far and wide so that we easily embrace differences. We believe it enhances our mission and goals. Our programs—including the Most Promising Minority Students, the Mosaic Career Fairs, the Club Achievement Awards, the ADDYs, the Advertising Hall of Fame and the National Student Advertising Student Competition—reflect our commitment to serving members in a variety of ways.

  • Our Mosaic Principles and Practical Guidelines show business how diversity and multicultural marketing can benefit the creativity and bottom line of your business.
  • Since 2001 the AAF has hosted the Mosaic Awards & Forum program to recognize successful multicultural marketing and diversity efforts. In 2004, the national organization and its District Two joined forces to host the Diversity Achievement and Mosaic Awards & Forum during Advertising Week New York. The event includes the Mosaic Forum, a platform for corporate leaders to candidly address diversity issues facing the industry. This year's event is September 26 at the New York Athletic Club.
  • Mosaic Career Fairs connect talented minority advertising, marketing and communications students with industry professionals who are seeking entry-level candidates.
  • The AAF's Most Promising Minority Students Program acknowledges those minority students deemed exceptional by their college professors and advisers. The program started a decade ago as a response to the advertising industry's concerns about identifying top minority talent for entry-level positions. And our research shows these programs are paying dividends. A recent survey estimates that almost 70 percent of Most Promising Minority Student alumni are still employed in the field of advertising and marketing communications.

So much of our inclusive DNA come from the work of AAF's Mosaic Council, our "think tank" on diversity and multiculturalism. The group includes national advertisers, general market and minority advertising agencies, media organizations and suppliers.

I'm calling on AAF – Houston to designate a representative to serve on the Mosaic Council and help us continue identifying best practices for achieving greater industry diversity and multiculturalism. Once again, I'm talking national exposure, local roots.

We prefer action instead of reaction when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Our country is desperately searching for role models to inspire youth who are exposed to a constant diet of criminal athletes and divas who believe their own press.

Why not show the world through our local communities that the AAF can provide leadership and expand opportunity?

AAF – Houston is a respected mentor and example to us all. Let's expand programs and scholarships for students who want to go into communications, develop new seminars, training sessions and networking events for members looking for new business opportunities from regional and local companies, and create a higher profile in the business and civic communities.

Let's kick it up another notch and provide even more opportunities for a diverse group of young people to enter our industry. Let's go into schools and communities that do not have advertising and marketing programs, tell them about our industry, and let those talented youngsters know that we welcome their drive and creativity.

The AAF is researching a business practices paper on hiring, retaining and promoting minority professionals, and our minority vendor database will soon launch. Diversity and inclusion are vital to compete in the international marketplace and engage in multicultural marketing. Organizations and businesses throughout the industry need people who understand advertising and the cultural nuances that make campaigns successful. That's why it is so gratifying to be here and celebrate your success. I am in awe of what you do. You help people dream and accomplish their goals; and you do it by being consistent, ethical and honorable. The scholarship, internships and professional development events you sponsor demonstrate your commitment and your willingness to dig in and do the hard work success requires.

In a Labor Day speech back in 1903, Theodore Roosevelt said, "…the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard…at work worth doing."

AAF – Houston, your actions and your record of achievement answer the question, "What does this name change and closer affiliation with the national office mean?" The answer is simple: It means whatever you want it to mean. As with most endeavors, output is directly related to input. Even though you're a local entity, business opportunities for your members are global and the workforce is multiethnic right here in the United States.

We value tradition but we must understand that political, economic and social changes have altered our original mission. We're not in the midst of an identity crisis. We are growing, welcoming new perspectives, learning new cultural nuances, adding color and definition to the mosaic that is America. We all know what the American Advertising Federation stands for and what it works for, and we know that even though we get frustrated, we're in a dynamic and challenging industry.

I am confident the enhanced branding and closer association with the national organization will raise expectations and inspire you to explore new ways to enhance your business and help this industry move forward.

I want you to know the AAF is with you. Please call or e-mail anytime with questions or comments. I want to hear from you and so does Joanne Schecter, AAF's executive vice president for club services. Our contact information is on the Web site. And please stop by our office when you're in the Washington, D.C. area.

I appreciate your attention and your time. And I'm excited that you've decided to plan for the future. The journalist and editor, Roy W. Howard, got it right when he said, "No date on the calendar is as important as tomorrow."

And so I leave you with this modest proposal: Let's get connected, stay connected and expand our connections—together.

Thank you.

###