Ad review group names Guthrie

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Former publishing executive James Guthrie has been hired as president of the National Advertising Review Council, a position left vacant for two years after the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the ad groups that created it clashed over whether funding for the post was necessary.

Mr. Guthrie, 60, who until last week was VP-marketing promotion for Primedia's Channel One, will fill the post held by Wally O'Brien until April 1999. "He's central casting for the job," said O. Burtch Drake, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Mr. Guthrie is a former ad agency executive who was exec VP-marketing development for the Magazine Publishers of America from 1987 to 1997. He then became exec VP-marketing and sales at Petersen Publishing Co. until it was sold to Emap USA; he later joined Channel One.

Wally Snyder, president-CEO of the American Advertising Federation, said Mr. Guthrie's background as a publishing executive and his contacts within the industry make him a perfect choice. "He knows a lot of people and a big part of his job is to sell the industry on self-regulation."

The National Advertising Review Council supervises the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which handles complaints on most advertising, and the Children's Advertising Review Unit, which handles complaints and issues about advertising for those under 13.

The three ad associations that formed the National Advertising Review Council-AAF, 4As and the Association of National Advertisers-with the Better Business Bureaus say that having an active self-regulatory system is crucial to resolving issues about advertising quickly and inexpensively. They maintain that self-regulatory effort provides credibility for marketers by showing they are acting responsibly, and that it forestalls government pressure for ad restrictions.

But as recently as 1999, under a past president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Council and ad groups were in conflict. The ad groups wanted to employ a president who, free from day-to-day administrative duties, could travel and urge marketers to use self-regulation as a means to settle controversy while also promoting self-regulation to Washington policymakers. But the Council of Better Business Bureaus was unwilling to fund the president's post. The dispute was resolved after Ken Hunter became president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus last year; a search has been on for a new president for four months.

"A long effort to reestablish [the president's post] and find someone to fill it has been concluded," said Mr. Hunter. "Now we need to get on to the important business of improving the product, promoting it and getting the necessary participation so that it is successfully funded by its users and supporters."

ANA President John Sarsen said the two camps are committed to making the position work and to raising the unit's profile to reflect the fact that the ad industry, rather than simply the Council of Better Business Bureaus, is behind the self-regulation effort. To that end, the group may rename some of the organization's functions, such as NAD. "This is not something that is being done as a stopgap," he said. "We want to reposition [NARC] to make it clear it reflects the entire industry."

Mr. Guthrie said he was excited by the challenge: "After spending a career in the publishing field, I see nothing more rewarding than to give something back." He said he hopes to implement initiatives that will keep the program relevant to marketers, promote its visibility, encourage participation and maintain its status as "the best self regulatory system in America's industry."

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