Cedar Rapids Brands New National Connection

By Wally Snyder, President and CEO, American Advertising Federation
Remarks to AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City
January 24, 2008 | Clarion Hotel

Good afternoon and thank you for welcoming me back to my hometown of Cedar Rapids.

Ladies and gentlemen: It's a privilege to be with you today to share a few thoughts about Cedar Rapids and Iowa City's "New National Connection."

First, I want to thank your president, Jeff Wolff, your executive director, Audrey Wheeler, and the entire board of directors for making me feel so welcome. I'm especially grateful because as you know by profession I am a lawyer, and you invited me anyway.

I also want to acknowledge all the students participating in Education Day, an annual event that connects students with advertising professionals. I'd like all students to stand and be recognized.

I am so proud that AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City has the foresight to look beyond your current status as students and see future experts in marketing, graphic design, multimedia communications and public relations. And I am proud of all you young people participating because you continue to develop the networking skills needed to make it in this business.

Please go to our Web site—AAF.org—and look around. In addition to our online Job Bank, where you can post your résumé and apply for jobs and internships, we have a variety of programs and recruitment efforts focused on helping you land that first job, then helping you move up the ladder:

  • Our National Student Advertising Competition gives thousands of college students a real-world experience in creating a strategic advertising, marketing and media campaign for a corporate sponsor.
  • The AAF Student ADDY Awards Competition is a unique national awards program for college students. Work entered at the local level can move up to the regional and national judging, just like the work entered by professionals across the country.
  • And AAF's Most Promising Minority Students Program is the leading advertising industry award program to recognize and recruit outstanding minority college graduates. We are celebrating its 12th year and the amazing feat of nearly 70 percent of its alumni still in working in the industry.

Please take advantage of all the resources we offer online and in our programs. Finally, I salute the leadership this great organization has shown over four decades, and now, celebrating its 40th anniversary, you are moving to the next level, staying true to your mission:

  • You provide professional development.
  • You stay current with trends in advertising, marketing and communications.
  • You celebrate achievement, sponsor educational events and provide a community forum for advertising and marketing professionals in Eastern Iowa.
  • I congratulate you for being Club of the Year for District 9 and for increasing your ADDY entrants and your membership—and also for competing so effectively with the large markets of District 9.
  • To sum up, you are making a difference, and we salute you for it.

You are in a unique city in a region with wonderful educational institutions such as Kirkwood Community College, Coe College, Cornell College, Mount Mercy College, and the University of Iowa. Go Hawkeyes!

The area is home to a number of large businesses and industries, including Rockwell Collins, General Mills, Cargill, Quaker Oats and Archer Daniels Midland. And the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Technology Corridor continues to strengthen the region's economic prosperity and competitiveness by attracting a new generation of entrepreneurs, while retaining established businesses.

So you have much to be proud of, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. You are fantastic and that dedication to excellence was reinforced as I perused your Web site, reading about your various activities and seeing the camaraderie reflected in event photos.

You've changed your name to the American Advertising Federation – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City, an initiative that will enhance branding on a local, regional and national level.

Your new brand—AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City—makes you a national organization with national connections; this expanded recognition enables you to be a national entity right here in Iowa. You are now a part of more than 40 federations (of more than 200) who in just the past six months have changed their names and whose consistent brand image with the national AAF will elevate the prominence of the local organization. They include AAF – Cleveland, AAF – Phoenix and AAF – San Antonio.

Your closer 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.

AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City and the national AAF are dependent upon each other for growth. In order to accomplish our goals, AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City 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.

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 have learned to compete in the national marketplace by staking out new opportunities and services, and then by not letting anyone come close to us in those programs. We are always in a state of "positive transition," continuously looking for ways to improve our services and programs to members and to launch new initiatives that will make you and your businesses trendsetters in a time of expanding technology and changing demographics.

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 through our conferences and our Web site, all of which are designed to boost the profiles and standing of local affiliates 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.

Today I want to talk with you about four areas that I think need special attention.

First is the need for marketers to better integrate traditional and online media opportunities. Second is how we can educate our members about how best to contend with this new digital age in their businesses. The third is the value of creating a truly diverse and inclusive industry and investing in its future-our advertising students. And the fourth is the often overlooked opportunities presented by advertising ethics.

As I said, facing the future together is essential because we are all grappling with one of the most important issues our industry faces, a question we must answer together: How can we in marketing, advertising and communications take advantage of the various technologies to create better products for our clients?

Not too long ago we were 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—from the United Kingdom to the United States, from Tokyo to Washington, D.C.—have more access and want more opportunities to connect with consumers. And it doesn't matter where you live and work—we're all connected.

So here's the bottom line: The future is now. The digital landscape is transforming everybody's business. The growing reality is there is no such thing as a non-interactive agency; client and consumer demands increasingly will not allow for agencies to operate under the "general" or "specialized" banners; there's no more "choose one or the other." The only real choice for viable businesses is do both.

The ever-expanding array of media choices makes decision making tougher—for clients and agencies, account execs and creatives, media buyers and media sellers.

The real opportunity is to create an extended plan that blends traditional and new media to enhance performance. We have to dig into the research, question our clients about their goals and expectations and realize that the future is here and now. Integrated marketing and media plans maximize a bottom line that speaks to the needs, desires and cultures that are changing America's advertising landscape.

The AAF is proud of what we like to call "Inclusive DNA," which means we love to bring everyone to the table to discuss challenges, solutions and goals. This special DNA means we have no fear of diversity. We believe it fosters unity, ideas and innovation. We believe a diverse and inclusive workforce may answer many questions posed by the evolving digital landscape.

These changing demographics and emerging technologies prompt some very critical questions:

  • How will we monetize the varied and changing tastes of customers?
  • How will creativity differ in traditional and experimental environments?
  • How will creativity unite advertising on traditional and online platforms?
  • How will accountability change?
  • And what customized metrics will be developed to measure effectiveness?

The successful "Ad Agency of the Future" will employ emerging technologies-traditional and new media-in an integrated approach to reach more consumers; simply put, it will help clients connect better in a variety of ways and it will use new metrics to prove and improve accountability.

More and more, consumers are in control of their media. They want information—including advertising—delivered to their devices—from their 50-inch high-def TVs to their iPods and smart phones; they want "contact" in new and unique ways, and they want to decide how to interact with the information. And so begins what I'll call "The Digital Chain Reaction"-customers place demands for interactive products and services on our clients, then clients come to us for answers and solutions. Again, this development of the digital landscape is not a wrinkle or some short-lived oddity. It's reality.

According to recent statistics online advertising has grown nearly nineteen percent in the last year, making it the sixth largest media category.

Google gobbled YouTube and together will control sixty percent of the Web's video advertising market. Analysts say video advertising is one of the fastest-growing revenue streams in cyberspace and predict spending to triple by 2009. That's one-and-a-half billion dollars.

Keeping up with what's happening can be exhausting. Every week it seems there's a multi-billion-dollar deal involving a company that didn't exist a few years ago. That's the pace of change—fast and faster.

As the Unifying Voice for Advertising, the AAF is dedicated to providing top-notch information to our members in advertising, marketing and communications.

That's what our Media Investment Survey (2007) is all about—an attempt to make sense of what's going on so that we can serve our clients more effectively, run our businesses more profitably and draw from the available talent pools more effectively. We conduct research to tell us where we stand. You can view this and other studies on our Web site. In order to get an accurate picture of what's going on and the thinking in and around the industry, the respondents to our Media Investment Survey 2007 came from all over—agency, media, advertiser/client, supplier and academia. A majority identified themselves as directors, owners and managers, and almost 90 percent were to some degree involved in the company or client's decision-making process for media investment.

We started out with a simple question: During a time of unprecedented change, how are marketers navigating the tumultuous media landscape? A few major findings:

  • When asked about media planning in 2007, respondents ranked the following statement—"I am open to new ways to use traditional media"—highest at 78 percent; the next statement—"The right media mix almost always includes a balance of traditional and nontraditional media"—came in with 76 percent, and the final statement—"The search for new properties to grow my brand never stops"—garnered 58 percent.

  • When it came to traditional media...
  • 51 percent of respondents said newspapers are the media category with the most opportunity for reinvention;
  • 34 percent said it was network TV.
  • And in the magazine sector, 46 percent said the business category is "most in need of a newcomer to shake things up."

When asked to rate their own performance at managing, adapting to, and getting out in front of significant changes, just one-third of marketers give themselves high marks while one in five admit they have much room for improvement.

These results confirm our other findings about the general wariness among advertising executives about their own ability to keep pace with the changing digital environment.

In the recent AAF Survey of Industry Leaders on Digital Media Trends, a whopping 58 percent said they are—and I quote—"struggling simply to manage existing online efforts, let alone stay ahead of the curve."

Despite this trepidation, most advertising leaders are embracing new media as part of their arsenal. An overwhelming majority surveyed recognizes the effectiveness of digital marketing, with 91 percent citing the online media environment as "empowering to advertisers, allowing the ad industry to shape its own development." Digital media's high return on investment was also recognized, with 42 percent citing paid search as offering the highest ROI platform.

They also expect a significant portion of broadcast and cable TV ad dollars to shift to online video by 2010.

And regarding integrating traditional media with online media, the research shows broadcast TV offers the "most innovative" integration, while magazines are considered "most effective" for driving consumers online. We see traditional media evolving by expanding its presence and reach. For example, most newspapers today have Web sites that serve as vehicles for both news and advertising.

These challenging times represent opportunities for all of us. Some of you sitting out there may say, "my company doesn't have the size and budget of the big firms." True enough. But the wonderful thing about new media is the continuing evolution of niche markets. And there's always the age-old business concept of partnering—and because of new media and the Internet, you may be here in Iowa, but your partners may be in South Carolina or South Africa, Singapore or Spain.

It's a new world. Digital media are making new demands on our staffing, budgets and creativity. It's safe to say, the Internet is here to stay. A survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows 71 percent of adults use the medium. The survey also found that Internet usage increase as household income and educational attainment rise.

How will you keep pace with this evolution of electronic technology and consumer demand? How will you keep clients pleased in this growing, specialized area of advertising and marketing?

The AAF is poised to provide education and training so that our members have the information and resources they need to compete successfully across all media platforms. In a letter to the AAF membership two weeks ago, our chairman Murray Gaylord outlined his priorities for the AAF, including developing an online AAF Knowledge Center that will gather the AAF's resources together into a Web-based curriculum. We hope to include articles, webcasts, videos, research and more that will be available to our members—including the members of AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City—at any time. We are already working with partners from different facets of the industry to develop the content for the center.

And this will be in addition to the great resources we already have for AAF members on our site, including e-mail contact links, a variety of archive material, and speeches and video. We also offer our AAF Smartbrief, the free e-mail newsletter that delivers industry news to your inbox every morning. If you haven't signed up for the AAF SmartBrief yet, visit www.Smartbrief.com/AAF.

We are committed to building and enhancing AAF.org, because we believe we can help you maximize your bottom line.

That leads to another central AAF initiative: diversity and inclusion. We're working hard to speak to the needs, desires and cultures that are changing America's demographics. While the local populations may not be as diversified are those in larger metropolitan areas, your services and products still must reflect your sensitivity and awareness of multicultural consumers. The AAF is dedicated to making sure you have the tools necessary to keep multiculturalism an integral part of your business strategy.

Many of you 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 Mosaic Career Fairs, the Club Achievement Awards, and the Advertising Hall of Fame—reflect our commitment to serving members in a variety of ways.

So much of our inclusive DNA comes 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.

Looking out over this audience I can see that the national AAF and the newly branded AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City share a common passion—young people. And when it comes to these budding professionals, we prefer action...instead of reaction, which is why they are in attendance today. Our country is desperately searching for role models to inspire youth. I say let's take these and other young people under our care and guide them to success.

Let's show the world—through our local communities—that the AAF can provide leadership and expand opportunity.

AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City 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 go one step further 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 launch soon. Diversity and inclusion are vital for competing in the international marketplace and engaging in multicultural marketing. Organizations and businesses throughout the industry need people who understand advertising and the cultural nuances that make campaigns successful. You can be a part of that movement, a part of a new vision for our industry.

I want to finish by addressing an area of advertising that's often skipped over: advertising ethics. I've recently begun writing a series of articles on our Web site that argues for a proactive consideration of advertising ethics. I believe this is essential to building consumer trust-the very essence of brand building-and will drive consumers to the company's products and services. In traditional discussions of marketing, advertising ethics is given little or no attention-not until a company must make a reactive response when its advertising offends consumers.

But a concern for advertising ethics is critical to business welfare, as well as the welfare of our country and our citizens, considering its enormous impact on our economy. The $200 billion industry largely funds our entertainment and programming and informs consumers about products and services. Also, the economic activity generated by advertising supports 21 million of the 138 million jobs in the United States.

But despite all of advertising's documented contributions, the public still has little regard for our profession. We have all seen those polls that consistently rank our view of the ethics of advertisers on par with used car salesmen and even below lawyers! We can raise the credibility of our industry—and in turn enhance and build American brands—by showing our commitment to advertising ethics. In addition to being the right thing to do, practicing high ethical standards also pays off on the "bottom line."

How do we define advertising ethics, and how do we work its consideration into our already complex and time-sensitive advertising process?

My definition of advertising ethics includes three components: 1) truth, 2) fairness and 3) taste and decency. Truth in advertising is already regulated by the federal and state governments, and individual companies and the advertising industry do very commendable work developing truthful advertising.

But advertising ethics goes beyond just legal requirements, and even beyond fairness, which includes both the nature of the audience and the nature of the product or service.

At the real core of advertising ethics are questions of taste and decency. I should first emphasize that the government has no authority-nor should it-in this category of advertising ethics; it is totally up to the advertiser and its agency.

But we can—and must—do much better in the area of taste and decency. While clear-cut standards aren't possible, advertisers must demonstrate greater self-restraint and show respect for everyone who will view their ads.

So how can we work ethical considerations into the advertising process?

  1. Advertisers and agencies need to proactively discuss the ethical consequences of ad claims and depictions that might offend market segments. This internal discussion needs to take place early in the development of new advertising.
  2. Certain devices should always be avoided, including utilizing stereotypes of race, gender and age and the way in which the human body is shown.
  3. As an industry we need to invest in focus groups, public case studies or other research that could help agencies and clients to make smart, ethical and profitable decisions.
  4. Best of all, clients could provide agencies with their own ethical guidelines.

I understand that advertising must be attractive and relevant to the cultural influences of our society. It must be "provocative" in terms of persuading action. I'm completely against politically correct speech, and I know that advertising needs to take risks. But I believe consumers will respond with their "pocketbooks" to ads that reflect ethical considerations. Companies that follow high ethical principles in their ads will "do well by doing good."

As a vibrant and thriving organization, AAF – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City is ready to take on all of these evolving issues: ethics, multiculturalism and the integration of new and traditional media.

I am already 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 academic, community, and professional 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 – Cedar Rapids – Iowa City, your actions and your record of achievements 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 are 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.

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 conclude with this modest proposal: Let's get connected, stay connected, and expand our connections—together.