The past year proved to be a challenging year for our membership. Regardless of size, agency type, geography or specialty, few members were immune to the impact of the economic downturn.
4A’s staff routinely makes personal visits to member agencies to learn of their needs and issues, and provide updates on the association’s initiatives, resources and tools. In 2008, the staff made more than 300 visits to member agencies. These visits were accelerated during the summer, as we visited more than 160 agencies in over 50 cities during July and August. In addition to exchanging information with our members, the personal visits served as the qualitative phase of a broad-based member survey. The visits provided insight into the changing dynamics of the industry, emerging business models, members’ challenges and issues, and how agencies are coping with today’s economic realities.
Some of the key challenges reported by our members were the weak economy and uncertainties over client activities, attracting and retaining key talent, offering relevant digital services, receiving fair compensation, and new business practices.
There was also a candid exchange regarding the services the 4A’s provides, what programs are valued and what else the 4A’s can do to serve the needs of the membership. 4A’s programs and services that received high marks from our members included CEO forums, Webinars and other compensation and new business best practice events, Agency Search, Research Services, Diversity efforts, training (in particular the IAAS and ELP), and the 4A’s governmental work done through our Washington, DC office.
From the visits and the subsequent quantitative survey of the membership, an action plan was developed to build upon the programs and services the 4A’s currently offers, and to embark upon new initiatives, services and tools to help our members withstand current challenges, capitalize on opportunities and meet their goals.
Twenty agencies were elected to the 4A’s membership in 2008. This includes traditional, digital, media and specialty agencies as well as representatives from all regions of the country. As our industry continues to evolve, so does the 4A’s.
In addition to the Institutes of Advertising Studies (IAAS) and other professional development workshops, 4A’s councils sponsored a number of events devoted to thought leadership, best practices, networking, scholarships and charitable causes. Some of the 2008 highlights included the annual Cannes Lion Advertising Festival Screening sponsored by the Philly Council; a luncheon with IDEO CEO Tom Kelly sponsored by the Cleveland Council; breakfasts and luncheons in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles featuring speakers on the evolving digital landscape; a GenerationNext diversity event sponsored by the New York Council; two Creative Summits sponsored by the Atlanta and Twin Cities Councils; and the Senior Management Dinner in Atlanta.
The 4A’s Forum Program for agency leaders continued to flourish in 2008. 15 forums, each with 10 to 12 CEOs, met twice a year to share information, lend advice and support, and explore subjects of critical importance to the industry and their individual agencies. Forum groups set their own agendas, which include topics such as new business programs, digital integration, collaboration with partners, talent recruitment and retention, and accountability. The excellent participation by agency CEOs in 2008 is a testament to the value agency leaders place on the Forum program.