Is the APA( Association of Practitioners in Advertising) Relevant?

Today’s lead story in the Smart Company is about the fight for clients and talent by different marketing communication firms in the country. http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/smartcompany/Crisis+as+PR+firms+fight+for+staff+and+clients++/-/1226/1378622/-/11j6oclz/-/index.html

A lot has been centred on PR but over the last many weeks changes in different companies have meant that the search for new Advertising and PR partners has been in high gear. We have seen companies like KCB, Safaricom, EABL, Telkom Kenya, Kenya Power changing their Advertising and PR agencies as the look to possibly try new strategies with different firms. Talent also has been on the move and in the marketing communications industry where its all about the money and opportunities for advancement naturally this kind of moves are quite commonplace. The same does happen in banking where as the big bank shed a lot of their middle management most of them are being picked up by smaller banks who are looking for the expertise in their executive suits. In the local market Scangroup has a 70% marketshare though with rising costs we have seen the percentage of clients doing direct bookings increase to around 55% of total advertising revenue for 2012.

On the same article APA counters that they have introduced a raft of new measures to try and rein in unscrupulous means to win business. In a new move to remain relevant the APA wants companies to channel requests for new pitches through its secretariat, which will in turn short-list 4 agencies to work on the said pitch. The company will pay APA a deposit which will then keep a certain amount to run its secretariat before paying out rejection fees to unsuccessful agencies. I have always contended that APA is a clique of agency owners who are frightened by competition and use any means to make sure there are no new entrants to their coveted club.

A look at their requirements include;100 million shillings gross billings, 5 key clients, 10 full time staff and 75% income from payment of services rendered by advertising agencies. As explained this is to keep our briefcase companies that are threatening to disrupt the marketing landscape and this stringent measures are to keep quacks out of the sector. Interestingly most of this agencies were all formed by people who were considered briefcase companies 20-30 years ago when they left employment to form their own agencies. They were the quacks back then each with one or two clients who trusted them enough to give them business instead of the more established agencies. Some of the agenciies that started this way include Scanad, Access Leo Burnett, TAC, Nuturn, MCL, Express Advertising and other agencies that are no longer their like the Creative Business, TBWA, DDBCCL, Tequila etc.

Its the high time APA embraced change in the industry and found a way of accommodating everyone rather than trying to erect new hurdles for small upcoming agencies. The fact remains Small Agencies will grow and challenge big agencies for a greater piece of the advertising pie not only in Kenya but in Eastern & Southern Africa. The only question is with APA not even being relevant now in 10 years time the APA will be dead and buried if they don’t reform. Just take a look at the vibrancy of the PRSK who have grown in leaps and bounds each year, i think its time APA took a leaf from them.

I think though there is an opportunity to create an association for all members marketing Communication like the Institute for Practioners in Advertising like they have in the UK. http://www.ipa.co.uk