Endorsement Ceremony - Pitch Process Code

Opening Remarks – Dr. Lance de Masi, IAA UAE Chapter President

Good evening to everyone and thanks for coming.

As I was preparing these remarks, I realized that the last thing the audience needs is a detailed lecture on the merits of the IAA Best Practice in the Pitch Process Code. After all, you are here, representing organizations endorsing the Code; and you know why you have endorsed it. I call you the “coalition of the willing,” and it is truly impressive that collectively you represent a significant portion of spending within the marketing communications industry.

But although tonight’s endorsements reflect the “will,” the impact of your signatures will depend upon “the way.” And that way must be so committed, so collective in its focus and so intolerant of non-compliance that departure from the status quo reaches the proverbial tipping point. The force of espousal and adherence must be so strong that it succeeds in creating a new regional order when it comes to pitching.

So, let’s talk about “the way.” I am very much aware of the tools that are not at our disposal. Nobody is going to go to jail for not adhering to the Code, and for like matters there aren’t any courts or grand juries responsible for indictment.

That  reality accounts for the dismay of several that the Code is voluntary; but to the IAA, this should not be reason to recoil. Some of the most effective best practice codes, on many subjects across various industries, derive their effectiveness from adherence that is voluntary. That’s simply how it’s done. It may seem ironic, but it is only dogged adherence by responsible participants that unleashes the power of any code.

This event and the communication surrounding it constitute a platform for increasing awareness of the Code, generating conversation and understanding and – most importantly – engaging the help of colleagues throughout the industry to put best practice into practice. We are the responsible participants, and we have a message to deliver.

Forget for a moment negligence or ignorance as excuses for not following best practice. Here’s a relevant premise: when organizations choose not to fall in line, they are usually motivated by perceived self-interest – most often but not limited to, financial self interest. When the fallacy of this perception is exposed, the self-governed seriously begin to govern themselves – in unity and countering the harmful behavior of the so-called “weak links in the chain.”

Without breaking my promise regarding details, as we move from endorsement to enactment, here are the headline and subheads in support of the Code:

The headline (it’s a long one): Continuing to ignore best practice is suicide for all parties concerned. It runs counter to financial interest and any other flavor of interest one can think of.

The subheads (five in number):

1 – The quality of marketing communications more often than not is a key factor in a firm’s success, and the choice of marketing communications partner does matter;

2 – Although following process does not guarantee success, it generally reduces risk and favors desired outcomes;

3 – Making lowest price the centerpiece of an agency’s offering is an untenable economic strategy and a guarantee of long-term client dissatisfaction;

4 – Choosing an agency on the basis of price implies that marketing communications services are a commodity. That perspective might sit well with some procurement people, but nothing could be further from the truth;

5 – There can be no sustainability of either firms or industries without ethics.

So, my point is a simple one: everyone’s self-interest is served by adhering to best practice. Once that belief enters the industry’s consciousness, voluntary adherence becomes the norm. The consciousness begins with us, although I acknowledge that further follow-up and engagement of industry principals by the IAA is required. And the trade media have a crucial role to play here.

Today, then, is about the opportunity for a healthier, more effective industry. Putting the pitching process on solid ground is one of the best favors the Mcom industry can do for itself. Today’s signatures do not simply communicate agreement with the contents of the Code. They symbolize a commitment to follow through in practice and to do so even in the face of imperfection, controversy and occasional ill will. The strength is in the doing. One can argue against theory, sometimes even against principle. However, action by cohorts, the thing “coalitions of the willing” are made of, causes the paradigm to shift.

Before I invite our endorsees to sign, let me thank you for supporting the Code. The IAA began this conversation with the industry months ago. The Code is the first of its kind in the region. All of this is unchartered territory and could serve as a model for how, in future, other industry issues are addressed. We’ll learn, modify and build as we go along. The companies represented in this room are the innovators. Others, I hope, will eventually join. It will never be too late to endorse (and follow) the Code. Someday it will be settled practice. Today it’ s simply an irrefutably sensible idea.

Thank you

Lance de Masi
President – IAA UAE Chapter

Dubai, June 12, 2013