Ad-review council seeks prexy

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Advertising groups and the Council of Better Business Bureaus have ended a long dispute on funding for the National Advertising Review Council and will fill the vacant post of president of the council early next year.

The agreement comes nearly two years after the Council of Better Business Bureaus decided it couldn't afford to pay the cost of a review council president. Ad groups were furious at the impasse; they consider the position to be invaluable since the review council president's primary role is to promote self-regulation to legislators and Congress.

Kenneth Hunter, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said he agreed to put up the more than $300,000 needed for salary and expenses. In exchange, ad groups will promote membership in the BBB to marketers.

Advertising review "very much fits in with our mission," he said, noting that more than 7,000 reviews of advertising are conducted by the BBB at the local level. The national review system is "a model program that is an integral part of our mission. It is fundamental to what we do,'' he added.

Under a revised structure, the new president of the National Advertising Review Council will be hired by that council and oversee policy matters at both the National Advertising Division, which hears ad complaints, and at the Children's Advertising Review Unit. Previously, the Council of Better Business Bureaus hired the president.

The issue of having a president sounds mundane, but the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation and Association of National Advertisers contend that having a visible leader with the time to push the program to marketers and Capitol Hill is vital to the program's success. Those three advertising groups have worked for more than 29 years with the BBB in reviewing advertising complaints The more that marketers come to NAD to settle disputes, the greater the program's credibility. Meanwhile, talking about the program to legislators provides a powerful argument against more restrictive legislation.

While the National Advertising Division has run since the April 1999 departure of Wally O'Brien as president, the ad groups argue the program needs higher visibility.

"We need somebody to serve as the spokesperson for self regulation, to raise the visibility of the system to bring all the complaints to the system,'' said O. Burtch Drake, president of the Four A's. ANA President John Sarsen said the position is key to the program's future: "It is important to have a leader who can be responsible so we can build up the world's greatest self-regulatory system."


Current National Review Council Chairman Carla Michelotti, exec VP-general counsel, Leo Burnett Worldwide, said having a president will give the council the opportunity to expand its agenda.

"We finally have someone responsible to the industry, somebody responsible for self regulation," she said. "There are lots of issues we can address, from privacy to multinational issues. This person is the policy person that can provide leadership for self regulation."

Copyright December 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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