For those of you who have read the late and legendary adman David Ogilvy's tome, "Ogilvy on Advertising" the remainder of this column may be rendered unnecessary.
But for those who haven’t, especially any and all employees at the American Institute of CPAs, it might be prudent to walk the block and a half to that giant branch of Barnes & Noble on 48th Street to pick up a copy.
At his peak, Ogilvy’s ad techniques and campaigns resembled more Secretariat in full gallop, than the cheesy flash and flesh of a Britney Spears’ concert.
Ogilvy’s theory on getting an ad message across to a desired target audience was sleek and basic, but effective, without the over-the-top humor and absurdity that could be found in say, an ad for Little Caesars’ pizza or Izuzu.
Fast forward to the post-Enron climate and the new image campaign being readied for the AICPA. The institute has hired an ad agency consultant to help scout for an new ad shop to succeed incumbent Hill Holliday, and also retained a national research group to gauge public perception of the profession following the recent series of massive accounting scandals.
A field of potential ad agency candidates has been winnowed down to a select few, and, according to the institute, a new image campaign will be ready to launch around mid-year.
But after a year of headlines that can be diplomatically classified as "bad," where does a re-imaging campaign begin that would help win back the public trust?
Historically, the AICPA had spent roughly $4.7 million annually on image campaigns, and, that figure probably will not grow in 2003. As someone who used to cover marketing and advertising trends, I can tell you that’s not nearly enough to help epoxy the image of CPAs.
Contrast that with General Motors or McDonald’s who regularly shell out over $100 million in ad spending for new product launches – and that’s when none of the proceeds are earmarked for image repair work.
Now to be fair, no one expects the Institute’s ad budget to remotely approach GM or Mickey Ds. But consider this, what if the $4.7 million had become between $9 million and $10 million — a figure arrived at by theoretically adding the proceeds spent on the XYZ global designation. Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s a matter of priorities.
The image of the profession needs help — I think that point is more or less inarguable. And an image campaign is certainly a good strategy toward reconstruction but it can’t be half-hearted or half-funded.
But you probably don’t need David Ogilvy to tell you that.
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