Ad Council Starts Restructure in Wake of Attacks

30 October 2001

Manhattan-headquartered Advertising Council – the ad industry’s voluntary clearing house for public service advertising – has accelerated its planned restructure in answer to criticisms from within and outside the ad industry. The revamp centers around a new initiative, branded the Ad Council Coalition Against Terrorism (ACCAT).

This, hopes the council, will help counter the censure heaped upon it on a number of counts: tardiness in mustering the ad industry’s riposte to the attacks; fragmented one-shot responses rather than a cohesive campaign; and obedience to White House diktats rather than developing the industry’s own counter strategy.

The council refute these criticisms, insisting it is revamping voluntarily to meet a new situation more rapidly than at any time since the bombing of Pearl Harbor – the national crisis that brought the body into being as the War Advertising Council.

Says the council’s president and chief executive Peggy Conlon: “We've changed our model with [the aim of] supporting the country and the war efforts.” ACCAT's priorities, she reveals, are to devise “a strategy broad enough to embrace a lot of messages and also appeal to people’s better selves — a sense of higher mission — and a tone that will serve us well no matter what happens."

In more pragmatic terms, ACCAT has formed a crisis response team led by Michael Sennott, the recently retired senior partner and vice chairman of Interpublic Group’s The Partnership division. A major element is a five-strong committee to oversee the development of communications strategy, whilst a parallel committee is charged with the review of creative output produced to meet strategic needs.

Says Sennott: “We've developed a sustained process going forward that will anticipate as best we can the broad issues that will remain constant.” Responding to criticism that the White House had wielded undue influence over the industry’s response, he smiled and asked: “Who's the client?”

Added Conlon: “We sent a letter early on to the White House indicating our readiness to do what was needed, and the reply said to `keep doing what you're doing with each individual department, and if we decide to centralize it, you'll be the first to know.’ ”

Heading ACCAT’s money-raising effort is Reginald K Brack, chairman emeritus at Time Inc in New York. He leads the fundraising for campaigns without sponsoring organizations.

News source: New York Times