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Comms Council boss Tony Hale says payment for pitches adds discipline to the process

New CEO of industry body The Communications Council Tony Hale has said he is keen to promote the practice of paying agencies to participate in the pitch process as it “adds discipline” to the process.

In a wide ranging conversation with Mumbrella editor Alex Hayes in the first of a series of video hangouts with the heads of marketing industry bodies, Hale discussed the function of the Comms Council, scam ads, female leadership in the industry, possible industry body mergers and agency churn rates.

On the issue of paying for pitches Hale said: “I’m a great advocate for payment for pitches because I think what it does do is recognises the advertiser is serious, it covers some incidental expenses for agencies.

“But I will also hasten to say any payment for pitches, unless clearly stated, doesn’t involve the IP of the ideas that go out. They should remain the ownership of the agencies unless there is a separate negotiation underway.”

Hale was appointed as CEO of the peak advertising agency body in December to replace Margaret Zabel, promising to “continue the progressive work that has begun to promote the value of agencies to clients, industry and government, with a focus on the economic contribution made by the industry”.

Hale was previously the head of the Newspaper Works, the body representing the newspaper industry in Australia, which is responsible for the Emma readership metric.

Prior to that he had a five year stint as director of Clemenger BBDO between 2001 and 2005 and prior to that was head of client services for The Campaign Palace for four years from 1995. He also ran his own agency, Hale & Collins Advertising for seven years.

On Thursday Lee Tonitto the CEO of the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) will be on the sofa, with the Public Relations Institute Australia’s (PRIA) Alison Lee deputy president being quizzed on Friday.

Other confirmed heads include Media Federation (MFA) CEO Sophie Madden, Australian Data Driven Marketing Association (ADMA) boss Jodie Sangster and Outdoor Media Association head Charmaine Moldrich, as well as Alice Manners, the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Timeline for Hale hangout:

o0.00 – 00.41 – Introduction

00.42 – 2.01  – Tony Hales breaks down what the Communications Council is and what it does. He covers off how many members belong to the organisation and what type of people join the body.

2.02 – 2.29 – “The perils of live TV” – the moment the camera fell down.

2.30 – 3.20 – Hale discusses the priorities of The Comms Council for the coming year.

3.21 – 6.11 – Hale comments on how awards recognise commercial creativity. “Creating a culture of effectiveness is critical to a functioning industry,” he said. Hayes quizzes Hale on the role of creative awards versus effectiveness awards and the issue of scam. “With respect to scam ads, scam ads aren’t new. They’ve been around for a while. Obviously we don’t endorse scam ads. What we want is real ads in the market having proper effect in either social or commercial areas,” Hales said.

6.12 – 10.34 – Hayes throws to Mumbrella deputy editor Nic Christensen who asked a question from social media: “Agencies are always bemoaning the pitch process and what can be done to make it better? And are we closer to paying for pitches?” Hales said there are plans for The Communications Council to issue guidelines on how a pitch is managed. “With respect to paying for pitches, I’m a great advocate for payment for pitches because I think what it does do is recognises the advertiser is serious, it covers some incidental expenses for agencies. But I will also hasten to say any payment for pitches, unless clearly stated, doesn’t involve the IP of the ideas that go out. They should remain the ownership of the agencies unless there is a separate negotiation underway.” Hale said payment for pitches also puts discipline around shortlists.

10.35 – 12.45 – Hayes quizzes Hale on the issues of female leaders amongst agencies. “We’ve put a lot of effort into that, developing a gender diversity program for our members, we have a hub on our website, we have a five step process for CEOs to get involved,” Hale said.

12.46 – 13.27 – Hayes throws to Christensen who asks “Where do things stand with a possible merger with PRIA?” Hale said he hasn’t heard of that but has not met with the PR council yet.

13.28 – 15.51 – Hayes follows up to ask about any consolidation of trade bodies in Australia, perhaps the MFA with the Comms Council? “It’s early days for me,” Hale said. He described the MFA as a good organisation. “I’ll have to just see how that plays out.” Hayes and Hale discuss the trend of agencies to move to a full service offering. “Whatever organisation you’re out to service your clients. If clients want a combined media and creative resource there are those with that offering available. The bigger end of the business still stands to be separated as someone said ‘I can’t see the toothpaste going back in the tube’ as far as creative and media for the big ones coming together and I think that’s probably true.”

15.52 – 17.54 – Hayes asks Hale about financial pressures on the trade body. “There’s no doubt that running an industry organisation is challenging but it can also be incredibly rewarding,” Hale said.

17.55 – 20.41 – Hale discusses The Communications Council’s partnership with the IPA and its new training courses.

20.42 – 22.20 – Another question from social media: Is the Circus event going to go back? Hayes said it’s not happening this year and it didn’t happen last year but “never say never”. “It’s an expensive thing to pull together, it’s not on our priorities at the moment,” he said.

22.21 24.44 – Hayes quizzes Hale on the issue of industry churn – is there more to be done from The Comms Council on the issue? Hale said it’s not a new issue. “The last decade has been very disruptive,” he said. Hale suggests the industry is in danger of being too narrow. “We’re very university focused, very private school focused,” he said. He said it’s important to broaden the industry to cover a variety of backgrounds.

24.45 – 25.20 – Thank you for watching.

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