Time for Industry Workers to Make Case to Congress

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

Like it or not, there are discussions taking place in the backrooms and corridors of Washington that will affect your livelihood. And it might be time for you to start paying attention, time to pick up the phone and do something about it.

You may be a Democrat; you may have supported Barack Obama's bid for president. That doesn't matter to a new Congress and administration that has the industry in its crosshairs. On one hand, the federal government is on the hunt for funds to pay for health-care reforms and other programs. So we see efforts to strip the $4.7 billion direct-to-consumer drug category of its tax deductibility. If it can happen to DTC, it can happen to others.

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And it's not just about tax dollars. Congress is eying the marketing practice of tracking consumers as they use the internet, endangering the $23.4 billion online-ad market last year. The Food and Drug Administration is scrutinizing household names such as Cheerios and Tylenol. And, of course, the federal government will have a big say in the budgets of Chrysler and General Motors.

Whatever the merits of some of these issues, rest assured that the outcomes will have a ripple effect throughout an industry already being hammered by recession and other market forces.

There's something larger at stake as well. The future of this country, for better or worse, is going to be dependent on smart, creative thinking. We can't compete in manufacturing terms with the cheaper labor and raw materials available in the rest of the world, so we're going to have to fight to own the best intellectual property and brands, and to be at the forefront of ideas and innovation. They're the value creators of America's future. Taking whacks at the creative industries is just shortsighted.

The trade groups have to come out swinging -- and are. "Advertising is the whipping boy for a lot of the ills people perceive in the marketplace," said Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. "Our job is to provide an unencumbered environment because advertising generates $6 trillion of economic activity and supports 21 million jobs in the economy."

But perhaps, you Joe Ad Worker, should get on the phone with your representative and let her know that the ad industry isn't just a nameless/faceless entity. There are jobs and livelihoods at stake.

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