Thursday, February 07, 2008

An open letter to the Boise Advertising Federation

Over the past few years, I've taken the Boise Advertising Federation to task a number of times, but I've also given them what I'd consider to be a number of free passes. In this case, it's the former.

From the BAF website:

The Boise Advertising Federation is the professional development organization for advertising professional in the Boise metro area.

Now, from the Boise Advertising Federation's Articles of Incorporation:

The purpose or purposes for which the corporation is organized is to provide an educational and fraternal organization for the betterment of the field of advertising. To increase the understanding of advertising and its role among public life. To provide fellowship and culture among persons of the advertising profession.

So, my first question to the current board of the Boise Advertising Federation: What are you doing to provide an educational and fraternal organization for the betterment of the field of advertising? The guest speakers at the occasional luncheon is a good start, but what about those times in between? Where are the regular updates to the website? The newsletters? The articles that members may find interesting? Shouldn't that be part of the "betterment of the field of advertising"?

Second question: How are you increasing the understanding of advertising and its role among public life? There may very well be some outstanding educational programs happening, but unless people know about them, their effectiveness is severely limited. Now granted, I know that the golf tournament last fall raised some money for the Boise State University and University of Idaho advertising clubs, but is that really enough? How often does someone from the Ad Fed go speak to those clubs? How often are those club members invited to events hosted and/or sponsored by the Boise Ad Fed?

Third question: Fellowship and culture among persons of the advertising profession? Now once again I'll give credit to the occasional luncheon or social event as an opportunity for those in the advertising profession to get together, but is that really enough?

Fourth question: Why isn't the Idaho Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America more involved with the Boise Ad Fed, or vice versa? Shouldn't those same public relations professionals that are part of the PRSA be involved in the BAF also?

Now, should you think that this entire post is an attack on the Boise Ad Fed, it isn't. It is just as much the responsibility of the members to get involved in the activities of the organization. That being said, however, the BAF has made it very difficult for anyone who may want to get involved to actually do so. On the current website, which has been under construction for god only knows how long now, there is no way for a potential member or interested party to learn more about the group, other than a phone number and an email address, that based on past experience, rarely gets checked.

Have I ever tried to call the phone number? No. What's the incentive to do so? To try and get involved with a group that doesn't seem to be doing much, given the outward appearance of their site?

Now, let's look at it from another point of view -- that of the prospective talent thinking about moving to Boise. If I were in their shoes, I'd be extremely leery about considering moving to Boise. Again, given the outward appearance of the organization on the website, it doesn't seem that there's anything worth moving to Boise for.

And what about a client looking to hire a Boise agency? Given the fact that the Boise Advertising Federation is supposed to represent the advertising profession, I'd imagine that a potential client would be incredibly put off by the way that the profession is represented locally, and instead would be inclined to look outside of the market to areas such as San Francisco, Portland or Seattle for an agency that can provide the services that they need.

At the end of the day, the Boise Ad Fed should be bringing greater visibility locally, regionally and nationally to the talent that this market has to offer. And there is quite a bit of talent in this market. Instead, though, it seems that the only purpose as of late is to serve as the gatekeeper to any regional or national ADDY awards shows. If you want to enter on a regional or national level, you must enter locally first.

I'm not alone in these concerns about the BAF. I've received comments from others expressing many of these same concerns. And again, my intention is not to lay blame on the organization, or lash out at them publicly. But these are valid concerns, and they're being expressed by BAF members.

So, my challenge to you, the reader, is this:

If you're a member of the Boise Ad Fed, get more involved. Call up the current President and ask what the group has been up to. Attend an event. Ask for more frequent email updates. Poke and prod the leadership into action, if need be.

If you're an officer of the Boise Ad Fed, don't wait for your members to poke and prod you into action. Be proactive. Send out updates on the Rockie Awards, brag about work that members, and member agencies have done recently. Get more people involved. Make the Boise Advertising Federation, and the website in particular, into the hub of activity that it deserves to be.

Also, be sure to take a look at Bart Cleveland's take on advertising organizations over at the Ad Age Small Agency Diary.

And of course, everyone is welcome to tell me that I'm wrong, right, or just completely full of shit. Comment away.

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7 comments:

Tac said...

First- Brian I must say that since shedding your previously employed position at an agency, it seems to have added some fire to your posts. Being self employed will do that to you :)

Second- PRSA and BAF will never mix well. I have attended both groups at least once (okay I actually think it was once for each) and the two couldn't be further apart in style and culture. But I agree and while you're at it throw CCC Boise and Kickstand in there as well. They should all be playing nice(r).

Third- to the rest of your points, they are all volunteer organizations. Non profits have a hard enough time getting anything done let alone non profits run completely by volunteers. Then throw in the mix that all the members are each others competition and it complicates things more.

Until they all figure it out The Boise Bloggers Meetups will have to fill in some gaps for you.

Edward said...

As the current President of the Boise Advertising Federation (BAF) and, as scary as it is to me, a 20-year member of the Idaho advertising community, I would like to respond to Brian’s questions. But first, some context:

I was first a Board Member of the BAF for three years in the early 1990’s. And, as I’ve often been teased for repeating, “back in the day” this organization was one of the more robust, active and fun organizations of its kind in the Treasure Valley. Through the years the BAF, like any organization run completely by volunteers, has seen its ups and downs. This is especially true of an organization that depends on membership and leadership from an industry that is under constant deadline, highly competitive and is in a market that is growing faster than almost any other anywhere. A case in point, this former Member of the Year dropped almost all involvement in the BAF during a three to four year period while I was launching my agency. The demands of my business, clients, employees and family simply took precedent over industry networking … at some point you have to “get some” to really “give back”. A little over two years ago, I was asked to do just that – give back and take over as 2nd Vice President on the Executive Board of the Federation. Usually the Executive Board is selected from current board members but at the time there was a dearth of volunteers who had the interest or time to commit. Since that time I have made it my mission to revive this worthwhile organization to not just its former glory but also to an organization that reflects today’s advertising industry from an agency, media, ad services (vendor) and client-side marketer perspective.

This transformation has not happened over night. In my first year and a half on the board there was a tremendous amount of work to be done just to provide the most minimal services expected of the BAF like running the Idaho Ad Federation Creative Awards (the Rockies). With some help from some stalwart Board Members like Chris Fout formerly with Roby Financial, Jason Hamilton of Fuel 3 and Sarah Wolfe of Journal Broadcast Group, among others, the BAF stayed afloat. This (fiscal) year as incoming President and with the help of Chris, Jason, Sarah, Carla Armentrout and our trusty Secretary Madeline Rutledge I was able to recruit an almost completely new board from the ranks of Idaho’s top ad agencies including John Drake & Robbin Gibson of Drake Cooper, Carolyn Weske with MMG, and the aforementioned Jason Hamilton of Fuel 3, a variety of Treasure Valley media; Sandy Anderson with Journal Broadcast Group, Mark Southern – Creative Indoor Ads, the aforementioned Sarah Wolfe also Journal and Carla Armentrout – Spectra Productions, and industry service providers like Shane Vaughan with Balihoo and there are still positions to fill! My goal – to have a balanced board representing all industry points of view that would commit to the hard work ahead.

I cannot say enough about how this volunteer board has stepped up to the plate and taken it upon their shoulders to fulfill the BAF mission (most of these successful ad men and women are piling BAF onto their 60 hour work weeks). There has been much to do and, much like the campaigns we all launch for our clients, results are not immediate, are incremental and will aggregate over time. Whew! Now, to answer your questions:

1. What are you doing to provide an educational and fraternal organization for the betterment of the field of advertising?
In 2006 our program attendance was about 40-50 folks on a good day. Through the hard work of John Drake and his volunteer committee our first 3 Courses and Cake program drew double that amount forcing us to change to a larger venue for this month’s. This increased reach alone is a huge step toward better fulfilling our mission by bringing interesting, and thought provoking content to more people. But it didn’t just happen. It required re-tooling how we communicate to our members and potential members as well as rethinking venue and type of program while at the same time keeping the price reasonable. The “times in between” programs are also being addressed. Our new web site will be launching very soon. We have spent some time determining how it can best serve our members while at the same time stay fresh and scalable and become the source for robust content like you are demanding.

2. How are you increasing the understanding of advertising and its role among public life?
You are partially correct that the BAF supports the BSU and The University of Idaho Clubs financially – we also support ISU and BYU Idaho – all four in-state schools that compete in the American Advertising Federation National Student Advertising Competition. BAF members regularly speak to these clubs as well as lecture at college classes (I can think of five presentations in the last five months). We also provide guest speakers to smaller market clubs in our state like the Lewiston Ad Fed and the Magic Valley Ad Fed. In addition to this direct education our Public Service Committee is hard at work showing the community the value of our advertising industry by creating a video presentation to be used by the Children’s Home Society of Idaho as part of their fundraising efforts during their 100th Anniversary. You are correct that we have not communicated these efforts well but I think you go to far by saying that this lack of horn tooting is severely limiting their effectiveness.

3. Fellowship and culture among persons of the advertising profession?
Are the four programs that we’ve put together this year enough? No. And there are more planned including our next 3 Courses and Cake at the Linen Building on Thursday, February 28th. We are also in the process of re-tooling this year’s Rockie Awards with a new format and at a new (read cooler) venue! Again, time staking efforts by our volunteer committee members and board.

4. Why isn't the Idaho Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America more involved with the Boise Ad Fed, or vice versa?
Great idea and we’ll reach out to them via our publicity committee like we have recently done with the Idaho Press Club and Sales and Marketing Executives of Boise. Like Tac mentioned in his comments there are a myriad of organizations in this community that would do well to work together but, there are just so many hours in the day and our plates are a bit full attempting to restore and enhance value to our members in the most efficient way possible.

I hope these answers help explain the efforts taking place and would welcome you and others reading this blog to contact me directly to become involved with a committee – we are actively recruiting volunteers!

Finally one factual correction: one does not have to enter the IAF Creative Awards (Rockies) in order to compete in the District XI Addy Awards. You can enter the ADDY awards directly. Neither does one have to enter (or win) local market contests in Lewiston, Idaho Falls, Magic Valley etc. to enter the Rockies. Winners of local and Idaho awards at various levels are, however, advanced on to the next level. And, as a point of clarification, the BAF organizes and executes the Rockie Awards as a service to and on behalf of the Idaho Advertising Federation. For more information visit www.rockieawards.com. The late deadline for entry is February 15th!

Edward Moore
Ping: Edward@mmgboise.com
Phone: 208.472.7460
Fax: 208.472.7450

Shane said...

Shane Vaughan here with Balihoo, and current BAF Board Member.

I have to agree with Tac, there are some more "teeth" to your posts lately, I like it!

On to the topic at hand, the BAF. You're right, we're not doing enough. However, I would like to say that we're doing way more than has been done in recent years. The BAF is in a rebuilding year, and frankly I think it's going VERY well. The programs, the educational involvement and the upcoming Rockies all have more energy, more involvement than they have in a long time. There is a buzz about the BAF and a reknewed interest in involvement and membership, clearly demonstrated by our memberships this year as well as attendance at events.

I would like to issue a challenge to you and your readers....what do you want to see from the BAF? What's missing? Also, how can you help? Each Board Member has a committee with volunteers, are you on any of those committees? As Ed mentioned, the BAF is an organization which you will get what you put into it, so how can everyone reading this contribute to make the Boise Advertising scene a stronger presence?

Brian...thanks for raising the issues with the BAF. You're right on that members such as yourself should demand more from the BAF, and we'll do everything we can to provide that value.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow "back in the day" member of the ad fed, and current president of another professional association, I applaud Ed and his team's hard work and commitment to create a better club. Trying to turn around an organization, and a non profit one at that, is a ridiculous amount of work. These kind of organizations are reliant on the kindness of volunteers and at the mercy of their time constraints. I've seen vast improvement in the club over the past year and look forward to watching the club grow and expand its offerings.

I will say this (a moment to vent), its easy to bitch about an organization's shortcomings, but how about stepping up and being a part of the solution? Put your money (or rather your time) where your mouth is and be the change that you'd like to see in the club.

Josh said...

ACCIPE HOC

(see: www.dcfamilycrest.com)

I think the BAF is doing great things and has a great team leading it. Don't hate, participate. It's all about the RETURN ON PARTICIPATION.

Anonymous said...

I would like to commend those of you that are working on the Boise Advertising Federation board. It is a thankless job at times that provides a lot of unappreciated value to the industry. Not all the progress can or should be represented on the website.

Brian, this still is a good venue to get involved and network.

Anonymous said...

Brian, you hit the nail on the head.

I am from Boise but spent many years living and working in other cities. Last year, I decided I wanted to move back to be closer to family, but a huge concern of mine was the complete lack of an ad industry in Boise. Or Idaho, for that matter. Extensive web research and networking yielded nothing. Not one legitimate agency, not one contact, not one organization that seemed to know anything about advertising in Boise.

I eventually found an agency job here, at one of the only agenies I knew existed, and so far it's been good. I attended a BAF event right away, and I wanted to get involved as a volunteer. But even though I received the business card of the president, he responded to no e-mails or phone calls of mine. I tried to contact the organization through the website, and that didn't work either.

So here I am, a year later, still with zero response to my desires to volunteer. Now, my time is taken up with other organizations, and I'm not sure I'd have time for BAF anyway.

True, non-profits always have a hard time getting volunteers and money. But the first thing they must do is get their act together and COMMUNICATE with interested parties.