Put rivalries aside and grow the industry together

There’s a good episode of the West Wing where White House staffers spend many futile hours negotiating the place settings for what should be a relatively straightforward bi-partisan meeting between Democrats and Republicans.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  December 4, 2005

|~||~||~|There’s a good episode of the West Wing where White House staffers spend many futile hours negotiating the place settings for what should be a relatively straightforward bi-partisan meeting between Democrats and Republicans. During the episode, called The Leadership Breakfast, the staff tiptoed through a minefield of potentially bruised egos. I was reminded of it as we were organising the outdoor advertising round table. Not so much for the eventual participants, as for some of those who chose not to be there. The outdoor advertising industry is certainly one where the size of the billboards is matched by the size of the personality (or on occasion, ego). So, as our invitations to join us went out, there were some amusing cases where person A refused to join us if person B was present, while person B had the same thing to say about person C. So credit goes to all of those who were brave enough to put their heads above the parapet and sit around a table with their rivals. Particularly as their contributions proved to be so helpful. As you’ll see, the outdoor community has far more to agree about than disagree. Clutter, research and professionalism were all areas where there was broad agreement. And this, surely, is a lesson for the whole industry. If there is one thing that is painfully lacking, it is a decent forum, or forums, for competitors to leave differences at the door and find ways to work together. The nearest to an established body are the various chapters of the International Advertising Association. However, in parts of the region these are seen as being dominated by specific interest groups. Among the newcomers, apart from occasional tiffs, the GCC Association of Advertisers has done a good job in its early months of speaking for the big multinational advertisers. But agencies lack a voice to talk about their interests, and media owners do too. For agencies as a whole, the time may not yet be here. The big and powerful are well established, with business relationships firmly in place — particularly on the media agency side. But media owners really need to be able to sit down together. In TV, the distortion caused by the dominance of one or two sales houses makes it less likely, but for print, outdoor and radio, there is a pressing need. In every sector bitter rivalries exist, particularly at a local rather than regional level. But there are issues — such as research and professionalism — that desperately need to be tackled jointly. While petty animosities may make the process painful, particularly at first, the potential prize is a big one — the opportunity to grow markets significantly. It’s a hard thing to do when you passionately believe that the person sitting opposite you is an incompetent charlatan — and they’ve probably been saying something rude about you to your most important client, but in the end, taking the higher ground is not only the right thing to do, it’s a solid business decision. By working together, it will be possible to give advertisers far more confidence which should in turn lead to far greater investment. Like those management training games which teach you that it’s sometimes possible to all be bigger winners through co-operation, rather than actually being necessary to crush competitors, the same is true in a market that is growing as fast as most of this region. Let’s hope egos allow it to happen.||**||

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