The Kaess for Advertising Week

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If American Association of Advertising Agencies' Chairman Ken Kaess gets his way, this week's celebration of advertising will be known as the first-but not the only-Advertising Week in New York City. On the eve of the panels, parties and a procession through midtown Manhattan featuring Mr. Peanut and the Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Kaess sat down with Advertising Age reporter Matthew Creamer to discuss what it'll take to make it a success.

AA: How did Advertising Week come about?

Mr. Kaess: When I took over as chairman of the 4A's in April 2002, one of things I said in my opening speech is that we need to improve the value of advertising and the perception of what we do....We wanted to make sure all the people in our industry felt this was a great industry to be in. And then to the new talent coming in, we wanted to see how we can make advertising a cool business to get into. The third group is the general public. We wanted to help them recognize what advertising has done, not only in popular culture but from an econometric standpoint.

AA: What kind of perceptions of the advertising industry are out there?

Mr. Kaess: There are varying opinions about the role of advertising, whether you're talking about the public or people in the industry. There are a lot of studies that people are annoyed by certain kinds of communications. No one wants to get a phone call about a new wireless service in the middle of dinner. No one likes pop-up ads. For me it's hard to lump the public opinion into one category. Like anything else, there is good advertising and good communication and there is some that's more annoying and intrusive. With the whole expanding media landscape, it's becoming easier for us to become more intrusive in people's lives. Then on the other side, there's the Super Bowl. People watch it just to watch the commercials, so there's the romantic and entertaining side as well.

AA: What are the goals of Advertising Week?

Mr. Kaess: The first goal is recognition of the positive economic and social impact advertising has had. The second goal is to make people within the industry proud of being in the industry. The third goal is for people coming out of schools to want a career in advertising. There are specific events to reach each of these target groups. Plus, there's a lot of client involvement as well. There are 38 corporate partners and 28 associations that are doing something this week.

AA: How will you measure its success?

Mr. Kaess: You measure it with the media coverage, how people within the industry react to it, how corporate sponsors feel and whether they re-up for next year. There are different metrics depending on the target audience. For the general public: Did people get into voting on the icons? I think we'll just have a feeling, we'll know if it's been a success or not. It's the same thing with Fashion Week. Fashion Week has become a model as a way of educating people on the role fashion plays in society.

AA: Do you expect this to be an annual event?

Mr. Kaess: Absolutely. We expect this to be the inaugural year.

AA: What factors will that decision be based on?

Mr. Kaess: On how the PR, how the sponsorships go and on the general feedback. My assumption is that it will be a success and we'll course-correct what doesn't work. From what we've heard, attendance for the events is going very well.

AA: What's the budget for the event?

Mr. Kaess: I can't give you a figure. It was paid for primarily by our corporate sponsors. I don't believe we'll have financial issues.

AA: Will this event always be held in New York?

Mr. Kaess: Yes, this event will always be held in New York. It's called Advertising Week in New York. But we've had a number of other cities and countries interested, and you may see events like this in other places.

AA: If Advertising Week were to become annual, how do you sustain the interest?

Mr. Kaess: You learn from the first year out. The industry will always have serious issues it's facing. We'll find enough to make it relevant to people within the industry. The bigger issue will be appealing to the general public. I'm not concerned about finding relevant content.

AA: How do you respond to criticism that the icons contest is backward-looking, more about what the industry used to be rather than what it is now?

Mr. Kaess: Read the whole calendar. Is one of the more high-profile events the icons? Sure. We want people to have fun. Walking around the street with these icons, people feel good. If that was the only thing we're doing, then I could take a hit on that. That's just one component of the week.

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