The below was originally a comment to my post on an alternative viewpoint about the 4As, but it was worth pulling out as its own post, even for those of us—like me—who don't understand it all. The parts I do understand don't necessarily represent the viewpoint of Adverganza, but we're an equal opportunity blog. From the mind of Tom Messner:
WHY YOU’D HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO SPEAK AT AN AMERICAN ADVERTISING AGENCY ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Me? I’d rather talk to The Taliban in Kandahar, Afghanistan on why the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed were excellent likenesses of the old coot than present to the Four A’s Oratory Critique Committee that meets annually to throw metaphorical tomatoes at whoever is fool enough to step on their stage.
I know a guy who spoke last year down in Naples, Florida. Nice fellow, but naïve. Woefully naïve.
How naïve is woefully naive? Well, the fool took the assigned topic (Return on Investment) and proposed an investment that anyone in attendance (advertiser, agency, media) could turn a neat profit on for years to come.
He didn’t realize how “rudimentary, self-serving, stating the obvious, predictable” (Sawyer, NY Times, 4/28/08)it was to suggest that the ad business could elevate itself by bringing in, training, using the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He allowed himself to be introduced by a buffoon who graciously invited him to the podium with these flattering syllables: “Our next fellow claims to have invested $2.50 in his agency and turned it into one that went on to have more than one billion dollars in media billing.” The speaker, I know for a fact, also claimed to have been invited and, if pressed, would have claimed to be a U.S. citizen.
For this, he put an presentation together, including a video interview with two Iraq War Veterans who now work at ad agencies, and paid for his and his wife’s transportation. (Although, she claimed to have used frequent flyer miles and her claims I, for one, would not dare think of challenging.)
One attendee was so long truant from the conferences and, at the same time, critical of last year’s speeches (“I hadn’t been in five or six years and I swear to you, one of those speeches was the exact same speech from my last conference.”) that they made her President of the 4 A’s at a salary more than twice the salary of the President of the United States. In a real campaign for President, these days, some enterprising reporter would go back over the last five years to see if, indeed, one of the speeches was the same. Sniper fire all over again.
Truth is the Four A’s only has value in:
a) Lobbying in Washington DC or in states where there is pending legislation destructive to the ad business, and endeavoring to publicize the value advertising brings to consumers and producers
b) Group life and health insurance for member agencies that might benefit from the added weight
c) Coordinating public service advertising
d) Working to achieve a more diverse industry, an industry that might even see an added diversity in war veterans
e) Participating in negotiations with unions that impact the ad business
On this last point, tennis and golf are now banned from the conferences, along with other attempts at civility such as dinner and dancing.
The Times headline writer Monday wrote “The Four A’s Tries to Rebuild Momentum.” My guess is that the organization should scuttle the conference altogether as it appears--through its spokespeople-- to have adopted an American Idol “OK Enlighten Me” attitude to those brave enough to step to the podium. Whom will Ms. Sawyer find wanting this time?
Or create Momentum by having the next conference in a place where no millisecond of pleasure is likely to seep through on this Puritan renewal known as the Leadership Conference. Kandahar, of course. Where else?