UK’s Advertising Association hires Fishburn Hedges in hope of PR boost

Advertising Association boss Tim Lefroy probably has high hopes of his new PR campaign, called Advertising Matters, and the PR agency Fishburn Hedges that’s been appointed to handle it. But we seem to have been here before.

From time to time various bodies to do with advertising (the AA is supposed to be the daddy of them all, representing advertisers, agencies and the media) dust off their crusader’s singlet and hose and try to persuade opinion formers (politicians and journalists) and, by extension, the wider public, of the benefits of, in this case, ‘marketing communications.’

Their case hinges, as Fishburn Hedges points out, on the theory that the less people know about how such things work the more hostile they are to them.

So if you spread a bit of knowledge around then marketers and their handmaidens will get a better hearing.

Well let’s hope it’s true and it works. Unfortunately history seems to indicate that advertising impacts hardest on such people when they’re annoyed by it. For the rest of the time it’s just part of life, sometimes an irritation, sometimes amusing or even useful.

The BBC’s coverage of advertising is a case in point. Even though the BBC itself is an enthusiastic advertiser of its own programmes, and more than happy to pay ad agencies big fees out of taxpayers’ money if it thinks it can get away with it, its coverage of advertising almost wholly consists of dutifully reporting each example of industry regulator the Advertising Standards Authority or broadcast regulator Ofcom objecting to an ad.

Sometimes of course the public do respond to such special pleading. Bizarrely The Red Brick Road’s ad for ITV’s own marketing body Thinkbox topped the network’s recent poll of viewers’ favourite ads.

But does that really indicate any more than it was a cutesy ad (a clever one admittedly) with a dog in it?

Fishburn Hedges, owned by Omnicom, could maybe have got off to a better start than calling the campaign Advertising Matters, a hoary old pun that must have been used before by countless advertising types.

The agency itself has received flak in the fairly recent past, most notably by managing to annoy the world at large (and big chunks of Fleet Street) when it ran the press office for the TV Licensing campaign, which basically exists to persecute people who either don’t or don’t need to pay their BBC TV licence fee.

It probably didn’t use this example in the pitch it made to the AA.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.