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The editor of MediaStreet.ie, Nicole Buckler, interviews Barry Dooley, the chief executive of the Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI).

A leading communications consultant, Barry has been championing Irish brands for over 30 years. He has worked client side as Product Group manager for Showerings (Ireland) Limited, helping to grow the iconic Bulmers Cider brand. He cut his teeth with some of Ireland’s leading advertising agencies including Wilson Hartnell (Ogilvy & Mather), Brian Cronin & Associates and Saatchi & Saatchi, before moving on to Irish International where he was a director for 20 years. Barry was also a Director of IAPI during this time. His move to the Association of Advertisers in Ireland allows him to continue to work with Ireland’s foremost advertisers from literally all industry sectors.

Mediastreet: What are the main challenges facing advertisers in the Irish market at the moment?

Barry: AAI represents the collective voice of responsible Irish advertisers and works hard to sustain a robust self-regulatory framework to protect advertising freedoms. A vocal minority disputes this view and governments and regulators are increasingly put under pressure to impose restrictions that are both unjustified and disproportionate.

It’s hard to think of a more high-profile business than advertising. Perhaps that’s why advertising is never too far from debates surrounding society’s problems.

According to its critics, advertising  corrupts childhood, fuels obesity, targets the vulnerable, misuses data, even encourages alcohol abuse.  We don’t shirk these tough topics, but we also believe that the freedom to advertise, within a clear, responsible framework, is good for people, good for business and good for the economy.

The Public Health Alcohol Bill that was published in December last year is a major concern to the AAI, although I understand that the EU commission have been extremely critical of this draft.

The AAI were invited to appear in an “open discussion” before the joint Committee on Health and Children in March last year.  We tried to convince the committee that a wider stakeholder response to alcohol misuse is what is required rather than a random selection of measures. So when considering any new measures or restrictions, we asked the committee to think about two questions as follows:

  • What is this likely to achieve?
  • Will it make a difference?

The bill that was subsequently published does not take any of the AAI comments on board. The proposed bill and code purport to target the misuse of alcohol, but the provisions that will be contained in these instruments lack focus and an evidence base for their effectiveness.  There is an onus on the Government to address this lack of evidence, given the severity of the proposed restrictions.

It is important for Government to engage all stakeholders in this debate on the proposed bill including drinks companies. Ultimately, what’s good for the country is good for 200,000 people that are employed across the sector. We have a shared responsibility to address misuse and drinks companies understand this.

Barry Dooley, the chief executive of the Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI).

MediaStreet: What are other challenges faced?

Barry: Another challenge facing the Association of Advertisers in Ireland is the proposal to introduce sugar tax. The AAI recognises the “Healthy Weight for Ireland” strategy and understands the need to address the obesity challenge and wants to work with government and others on effective ways to improve overall health.  The AAI equally understands that obesity is a complex challenge – addressing Ireland’s obesity problem will take time and effort.  It will not be solved by knee-jerk, quick fix solutions such as taxation.

Soft drinks companies play their part through product reformulation (reducing sugar and calorie content), providing consumers with more information about the products, and responsible marketing.

International evidence shows that additional taxation on sugar-sweetened drinks does not achieve the public health objectives of reducing incidence of obesity, overweight and related illnesses.

The Association of Advertisers in Ireland believes that everyone should play their part.  The industry must act properly.  Governments must legislate fairly.  Consumers must behave responsibly.

MediaStreet: Is advertising a force for good?

Barry: On many critical societal challenges, advertising plays a positive role. All over the world, public service advertising has proven to be a useful policy tool in successfully reducing road accidents, increasing disease awareness, tackling domestic violence, encouraging recycling or promoting water safety.

Companies too are using advertising to help address societal challenges. They are increasingly conscious that, beyond selling brands and ideas, advertising can be used to show how their products and their initiatives can help make a difference.

The advertising industry (championed by Alan Cox, Core Media) commissioned a large scale research study into the impact of advertising on the Irish economy. The findings are based on rigorous and complex analysis conducted by Deloitte, which involved building an econometric model across 18 countries and 15 years of data, in order to isolate the role of advertising.

The key facts from this report are as follows:

  • The €938 million spent on advertising resulted in a €5.3 billion return to the economy
  • €1 of adspend generates €5.7 on average for the Irish economy
  • Advertising supports 30,000 jobs
  • 38% of all revenue to Irish media comes from advertising
  • Over 400,000 households would not yet have broadband access without advertising
  • €8.3 billion in offline sales are estimated to be researched online on advertising funded sites – advertising enables the internet economy
  • Advertising stimulates social change, and has been proven to help save lives on our roads.

The report also finds that a 1% increase in advertising leads to 0.062% higher GDP per capita.

MediaStreet: Does the advertising industry contribute to national economies?

Barry: Core Media and the Association of Advertisers in Ireland launched the first ever large-scale report into the influence of marketing communications on the growth of brands and national economies. (The report, called Marketing Multiplied can be purchsed via this link)

There is a real knowledge deficit in our industry. There is extensive research and scientific proof available regarding the tremendous power of advertising, but it has not permeated the offices of marketers. We wanted to change this by collecting the proof, organising it and putting it in one place. Together with economists Jim Power and Chris Johns, we surveyed all the significant research that exists around the world to give a comprehensive analysis of how our industry helps to grow national economies and brands.

Part one of the book is a review of the global literature on the macroeconomic impact of advertising. It will be of particular interest to industry associations, economists and government departments.

Part two has specific application to marketing and advertising practitioners. It brings together many proof points and case studies that describe the effectiveness of marketing communications in building growth and profit for companies and brands. Our key aim with this part of the book was to produce a practical guide on how to improve marketing efficiency and effectiveness. This is the first time a report of this scale has been published, anywhere in the world.

 MediaStreet: Where do you see advertising going in Ireland into the future, and what role will the AAI play in that?

Barry: This is a difficult call to make but right now one growing concern relates to the increase of short-term marketing. This is covered in detail in the “Marketing Multiplied” book.  Unless this short-termism is addressed then there will be big problems ahead.  This shift has been caused by recession-driven urgency, which is damaging to the profitability of marketing. Now, more than ever, there is a requirement to ensure that the marketing ethos informs the boardroom agenda.  It’s time for marketers to regain control; marketing should be seen as the engine room and not as a service function;  marketing needs to be treated as an investment and not as a cost.

The AAI will continue to promote marketing and advertising in this light.  Marketing really matters.  It’s an economic catalyst, driving competition and innovation.  It enriches the brands that people enjoy and trust. It contributes to society, not least by funding independent, varied media and fundamentally, it facilitates choice.

MediaStreet: Do you think advertising gets the rough end of the stick in terms of being singled out by various lobby groups?

Barry: In some cases, advertising is singled out as being the root cause of the problems that we face in society. The introduction of restrictions to advertising is perceived to be “an easy-win” and a positive issue for a Government Minister to discuss to the media.  One has only to review the amount of legislation and codes that exist as follows:

  • Broadcasting Authority of Ireland General Communications Code
  • General Scheme of the Public Health(Alcohol) Bill
  • Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Children’s Advertising Code
  • Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland Code
  • Special Action Group on Obesity. Code of Practice Working Group on Food Marketing
  • EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)
  • EU Pledge
  • Media Literacy Education Project

Most of the lobby groups do not know a great deal about advertising.  Nor do they understand the damage that can be caused to a sector by introducing random measures to restrict advertising  freedoms. The role of the AAI is to challenge unwarranted restrictions, to fight sector battles, to represent advertisers with regard to regulators, government, the advertising codes and the self-regulation system.

MediaStreet: What is your position on ad blocking, ad fraud and transparency?

Barry: On September 15th Industry launched a “Coalition for Better Ads” at Dmexco. The “Coalition for Better Ads” aims to take on the “Herculanean Task” of bringing together advertisers, agencies, ad tech and publishers to come up with global standards on digital advertising to tackle the rise of ad blocking. There is a recognition that we need to transform the total ad experience for the consumer and this is a challenge that affects the on line eco system.

Speaking at the Dmexco launch, Stephan Loeeke, the CEO of the World Federation of Advertisers said the “Coalition for Better Ads” will aim to come up with standards based on data and research as well as on insights from consumers.

Ad fraud is likely to represent in excess of $50 billion by 2025, even on a conservative basis. Without sufficient counter measures, it’s easy to produce scenarios where ad fraud revenues equate to$150 billion per annum in the same timeframe.

Virtually any programmatic buy can be exposed to ad fraud. Claims to the contrary should be treated with caution.

Viral spam-sites, providing little to no opportunity for advertising effectiveness, are endemic across the internet. But ad fraud is also found among premium publishers, for example in the form of sourced traffic. Low quality sourced traffic has become common place among publishers, often as a means to deliver campaign targets to advertisers.

Ad fraud is being perpetrated by multiple protagonists. Despite this, the unintended main benefactor of ad fraud is the marketing industry.

Advertisers lose out entirely from ad fraud and unless effective action is taken, the issues related to this threat will continue to grow in magnitude and complexity.

A silver bullet solution to the problem does not exist on the market; in fact, a single digit percentile of exposure to ad fraud will very likely prevail against any counter measure.

Until the industry can prove that it has the capability to effectively deal with ad fraud, advertisers should use caution in relation to increasing their digital media investment, to limit their exposure to fraud.

Much can be achieved by advertisers to improve the situation, including setting new standards, making contractual changes, demanding increased transparency and putting in place internal resources dedicated to countering ad fraud.

Behaviour change is required across the industry, which can only be achieved with appropriate understanding, motivations and a common shared approach.

MediaStreet: What effect will the Brexit have on advertising in Ireland (if any?)

Barry: There is so much uncertainty surrounding Brexit, so I am not qualified to make a proper assessment on the implications for Ireland. And I would challenge anybody who thinks they know what exactly is likely to happen!  I think it is fair to suggest that Brexit will cause damage to the advertising market. I have attended so many talks on this issue and “uncertainty” is a common descriptor for Brexit.

UK Membership of the EU has always been a fracture within the Tory party and there is no doubt that the divorce is going to be messy. And if the divorce is going to be messy for the UK, then it will be far more messy for us. The best analogy I have heard to-date to describe Brexit is, a “tooth extraction with a thousand roots” – pain, uncomfortable, nervous, fear, loss of blood and what might happen to the little tooth (Ireland) that is beside the big one?

Despite the PR spin that is coming from the UK on Brexit, how can the UK realistically expect to do better deals outside of the EU than when they were inside the EU? It appears that the UK are going to be in for a very serious “wake-up” call.

We then have to bear in mind that our own Government, because of its composition, is prone to collapse at any moment.

Barry has provided advice, and devised communication plans for some of Ireland’s most high profile brands including Barry’s Tea, Flahavan’s, Kerrygold butter, 7UP and Bank of Ireland. He was responsible for successfully liaising with Roy Keane in order to persuade him to appear in the Launch TV campaign with Gary Lineker for Walkers Crisps. This was considered to be the most successful launch for Walkers in Europe with sales and market share exceeding all expectations.  This campaign was awarded the Grand Prix in the Advertising Effectiveness Awards (IAPI ADFX).

The Association of Advertisers (AAI) in Ireland is a members organisation with the members being companies who advertise. The AAI is the only association focused single-mindedly on the interests of Irish advertisers. The role of the AAI is to promote and defend the reasonable freedom to advertise. The AAI is the voice of Irish advertisers. Companies join the AAI because they recognise the need to be a responsible advertiser.  AAI members understand that the freedom to advertise responsibly is a crucial element of a healthy economy.  By informing, educating and enriching our society, advertising adds to the quality of life.

You can buy a copy of Marketing Multiplied by clicking here.