Letters, Jan. 17, 2011

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Opinion split on media Responsibility in shooting

RE: "Top Operatives: Arizona Violence Won't Make Political Ads Any Nicer" (AdAge.com, Jan 11.)

I'm writing this from Tucson. I've lived here over 35 years and have watched this place grow from a sleepy town to a robust city.

To say that Tucson has lost its innocence would be a fair statement.

But what really has become a burr under our blanket is the nattering from both sides. Liberals, too stupid to keep their mouths shut, keep trying to turn this into an anti-gun, anti-Palin, anti-rhetoric, anti-right campaign. I include this site as an example.

The right, upon hearing such dogma, can't keep their damn mouths shut and stop attacking the left for its dopey comments.

What everyone has completely forgotten was that Loughner is bat-shit raving mad. Dangerously insane. And now we have six people, including a little girl, dead and a congresswoman fighting for her life.

You can't legislate crazy. You can't prepare for insane. Blaming either side for these acts of mad violence is just ludicrous.

These victims (those shot, those who live here) haven't had time to heal. Please, just give the political dogma (veiled and blatant) a rest.

On Oct. 24, 2012, I will be going on vacation, and I won't return until Nov. 8. While I'm gone I will not read any newspaper or magazine, I won't be listening to any radio, nor will I be watching any TV unless it's a program I brought along to be played on my DVD Player.

While I'm gone the candidates can slander each other all the way to the deepest depths of Hades -- I will not be listening to one second of their propaganda. I'm shutting the world off until the election's over!

It would be political suicide for Sarah Palin to apologize for her crosshairs map in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings. Apology implies confession, and there's a gigantic difference between confessing to stranding some passengers during a snowstorm vs. contributing to a culture of violence that may or may not have motivated the lunatic who shot those people in Tucson.

I'm a liberal, and I believe the vitriolic rhetoric prevalent in our media today did, in some way, motivate these killings. After all, Mr. Loughner chose to shoot a politician, yes? This was not a random choice. But there is no evidence I've heard that any specific public statement by any specific public figure pushed him to do what he did.

For anyone, Ms. Palin included, to apologize for their prior actions would, in the current environment, only bring the spotlight of accusation on him or herself a thousand times worse than it already is.

The best that we can expect is that going forward, our politicians and media figures will consider the consequences before they use guns and violence as a metaphor for political calls to action. Personally, I'm leading a call for more acts of genuine affection between public figures who may otherwise agree to disagree on the issues. Hugs will help, truly.

Regardless of whether the political rhetoric of the times played a role in this, it seems worth discussing it anyway. History shows that when a society silences the moderate middle and only extreme voices get heard, bad things happen.

The year ahead for the PR industry

RE: "The Year Ahead: 2011 Predictions for Agencies" (AA, Jan. 10)

Your assessment of where the direct-marketing, advertising and public-relations industries will stand in 2011 was spot on, particularly your point that public relations will enhance its value to businesses and the public in the face of increasing reputational concerns. What we're already seeing in the new year is that the effects of WikiLeaks, a 24/7 hyperconnected media environment and pressures to always be "on" are generating tremendous interest from businesses in the strategic role that public relations plays in bridging the gap between consumers' interest in brands and companies' business objectives.

Playing a leading role in conversation development has always been one of public relations' strongest areas of focus. As you rightly note, a key component of public relations agencies generating "two-way conversation-themed strategies" will be the continued inclusion of nontraditional hires, such as bloggers, social-media influencers and analysts. Taking that a step further, our members tell us that diversity within the profession will be key to their agencies' success in the year to come, as businesses continue to seek a more global perspective to their communications and marketing initiatives.

Brand-valuation standards necessary, but already exist

RE: Bob Liodice's "Book of Tens: Industry Imperatives for 2011," (AA, Dec. 13, 2010).

Recently, Bob Liodice, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, wrote in Ad Age that the marketing industry is still searching for effective marketing metrics and that for marketers to build brands and brand value, they must know what that value is. He then states that the ANA is working hard to produce a set of standards of generally accepted brand-valuation practices to assist marketers in selecting the right approach to valuation.

These are important goals for two reasons:

1. There is a clear move in many companies for marketing to be more accountable for its expenditures and goals. Brand sales and margins must be protected and improved. These are crucial aspects of the corporate growth agenda, and increasingly it is recognized that these two imperatives are the responsibility of the marketer. The entire marketing effort is directed at gaining new sales and ensuring they are made and sustained profitably. This is not something new; it is what marketing has always done. What is different is that management increasingly recognizes this is marketing's role and, because of the centrality of this remit to enterprise performance, wants to be supplied with continuous operational measurements.

2. Brands generate cash flows because they attract customers who exchange money for what the brand represents (a product or service that the customer prefers to the competitive alternatives). These cash flows are what make up the enterprise value and qualify brands as assets. Shareholders are interested in the brands a company owns and how they are marketed to the company's benefit. Market analysts concede that brands can represent between one-third and half of a publicly listed company's market premium. Brands are assets and the marketer's task is to care for that asset. For that reason alone they need to know what it is worth.

Liodice is right. Users of brand valuation need to be assured that the number they are given is credible. They need to know that the value could be used in a balance sheet and that the brand is being treated just like any other asset. And they need to know that the approach used employs a method that will be consistent over time. This is why Liodice has high hopes that the ANA and the Marketing Accountability Standards Board will come up with such guidelines.

But are these deliberations necessary? There are already standards and guidelines in place that do the job. Do we need to reinvent the wheel?

The board should, at the very least, consider these two sources:

1) IFRS: Fair Value Measurement (due for publication by the International Accounting Standard Board in the first quarter of 2011, draft available at www.iasb.org).

The Fair Value measurement guide is needed because fair value has become a major feature of 21st-century accounting. Previously, assets were valued at their historic or book value, but that was of no assistance to investors whose interest was in the current worth of the asset. Fair value is the price that "would be received to sell an asset ... in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date."

Thus the value of a brand would be the price that a willing buyer would pay to acquire the brand, and the Fair Value guideline sets out the principle of how this should be achieved.

Interestingly, IFRS 3 Business Combinations (one of the suite of accounting standards issued by the IASB) explains how companies should account for the assets bought in a merger or acquisition. Under the heading of intangible assets it makes it quite clear that it considers brands to be assets and when a company is bought the brands that formed part of the transaction should be valued, at the transaction date, at their fair value.

2) Wiley Guide to Fair Value under IFRS. Edited by James Catty and published in May, 2010.

This book was commissioned in response to the inclusion of fair value in emerging accounting standards. It is a comprehensive guide for valuers on every aspect of the valuation process and of course covers intangible assets such as trademarks and brands.

Mr. Liodice says that while brand marketers definitely should know the value of their brands, "the industry ... lacks generally accepted brand-valuation standards that would provide guidance in understanding the impact of marketing." These two sources alone will go a long way to assisting the industry in understanding the valuation process. And, by the same token, in developing metrics that are measurable and valid at the balance-sheet level.

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