On September 21, 1945, 60 years ago, Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) was registered as a society in Calcutta. 4 agencies from Calcutta – D J Keymer, General Advertising Agency, J Walter Thomson Co. and Press Syndicate – and 3 agencies from Bombay – Adarts, Lintas and National Advertising Service – were the signatories in the registrar’s office doing the honours. Initially the registered office of the Association was located at 37, Chowringhee, Calcutta. Calcutta, under the British Raj, was a vibrant commercial city. In 1961, the AAAI office was shifted to Bombay.
What was the size of the ad industry then? The Government’s own Press Commission in 1953 noted that the value of print advertising was Rs. 35 million. Other media spends were estimated at another Rs. 15 million.
In such an era, these were some real bold men, who felt the need to create a platform to promote advertising, as a professional activity!
We must also understand the background under which AAAI grew in stature. After India became a Republic in 1950, our successive Governments promoted the policy of self-reliance and import substitution. For three decades – from 1951 to 1980 – advertising in India had limited purpose to play.
Till the 80’s, while the Government did not encourage competition, the Government did grudgingly acknowledge the importance of communication in social aspects like in family planning programmes, nutrition, education, the modernization of agriculture and ushering in the green revolution. AAAI Members were called upon to provide support in the Government efforts in some of these critical areas.
The Government also had a healthy respect for AAAI and always consulted it in matters of consequence. For example, it was at AAAI instance that the Government permitted foreign equity holding in ad agencies in the late 80’s.
Whenever required, AAAI has stepped in to protect its business interests to regulate orderliness in the industry. It has been intrumental in restoring the 15% commission/trade discount for Government business in Government owned media, or in lobbying for removal of tax on advertising way back in 1965 and subsequently in 1978 and 1983, or during the most recent Fringe Benefit Tax where advertising and promotion was included as Fringe Benefit!
AAAI’s contribution in regulating the industry is no less significant. In 1987 when TV sponsored programmes became a reality, it determined how the income should be shared between the placing agency and the creative agency. In 1988 and again in 1990, AAAI was actively involved in determining the procedures and policies of the electronic media i.e Doordarshan.
In 1983, AAAI was involved in a serious dialogue with Indian Newspaper Society (INS) when the credit period was proposed to be reduced from 75 to 45 days. Finally we agreed on 60 days, with the rider that "no changes would be made in the Accreditation Rules without mutual consultation and consent" of INS and AAAI. In 1991, when the proposal came to reduce this 60 days to 45 days, it was persuasively defended. Since then INS and AAAI meet regularly with respect to matters that concern both bodies.
AAAI has been behind the National Readership Survey as a joint industry initiative in collaboration with INS and ABC. Having felt the need for a self-regulating body in Advertising, AAAI was highly supportive to the formation of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).
Similarly, AAAI encouraged the formation of Indian Broadcasting Foundation so that it could address the needs of TV channels. About 4 years back, AAAI signed a unique Agreement with IBF, which codified the working relationship between the members of IBF and AAAI in the matter of placing and paying for the ads. This initiative has been a resounding success for both sides.
AAAI enjoys a healthy relationship with Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA). Time and again, AAAI has been called upon by its members to resolve disputes with advertisers for which formal Arbitration proceedings have been conducted. AAAI also assists our members to collect payment from defaulting advertisers.
In summary, AAAI, over the last six decades, has stood by its members and have protected their business interests, be it in dialogue with Government, media bodies or advertisers; AAAI has regulated its members in the orderly conduct of their business affairs, whenever the need arose; And last, but not the least, AAAI provided a platform for training of advertising professionals, recognition of creative work through its coveted Triple-A Awards and honouring outstanding advertising men through its AAAI-Premnarayen Award.
AAAI has thus come a long way from its humble beginnings 60 years ago. But as they say, the future is always more exciting than the past.AAAI is alive to the changes that the future holds out and the next decade would be a stimulating period, ushering the advertising industry in newer challenges and opportunities.
Objective of The Advertising Agencies Association of India
The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) is the official, national organisation of advertising agencies, formed to promote their interests so that they continue to make an essential and ever-increasing contribution to the nation, by working towards the following objectives:
- To benefit Indian consumers and to protect their interests by helping ensure that advertising is honest and in good taste.
- To benefit Indian advertisers by promoting their sales, increasing their sales and increasing productivity & profitability, to stimulate business and industrial activity.
- To benefit media by establishing sound business practices between advertisers and advertising agencies and each of the various media owners.
- To benefit the nation by harnessing advertising for the good of the country, its institutions, its citizens; to co-operate with the Government in promoting its social objectives and in the task of nation-building.
- To question advertising that is wasteful and extravagant; to make it possible for the small entrepreneur to grow through advertising and to compete with the biggest; to encourage market and media research; to serve society by meeting its social responsibilities.
- To encourage the interest of young individuals in the business of communication, to assist in education and training programmes and to provide information of benefit to members. Non-members are also provided this service for a fee.
- To establish a common platform in building and sustaining the prestige of the advertising profession and to serve as a spokesman against unwarranted attacks or restrictions on advertising.
- To establish a forum where representatives of advertisers, advertising agencies, media owners and Government can meet on mutual ground and examine problems of mutual concern.
- To offer effective co-operation and liaison with Government officials and bodies for the purpose of broadening their understanding of the role of advertisers, advertising and advertising agencies.
- To co-operate with Government bodies in discussion of matters such as taxes, radio and TV advertising, legislation, political campaign advertising, controls on pharmaceuticals, tobacco or liquor advertising and other subjects of similar complexity and sensitivity.
- The AAAI today is truly representative, with a very large number of small, medium and large-sized agencies as its members, who together account for almost 80% of the advertising business placed in the country. It is thus recognised at all forums -- advertisers, media owners and associations, and even Government -- as the spokesperson for the advertising industry.
The AAAI's activities cover all areas of vital importance to the advertising industry. Some of these include:
- Government & Public Relations: Improving the image of the advertising industry and focusing on its role in economic development and employment through campaigns, seminars, press relations and direct contact with Government ministries.
- IBF/Doordarshan & AIR/Other FM Channels: Protection of members' interests on issues related to Guidelines and Rules of Commercial Broadcast, Sponsorship, Rates, Commission and Accreditation; working towards full service operations at all TV Channels/Doordarshan Kendras and Radio Channels; setting up an independent monitoring body for commercials.
- INS: Protection of members' interest in matters relating to INS policies, credit periods, Rules for Accreditation and streamlined operations; promotion of better production values and effective advertising purchases.
- Professional Practices: Improving the quality of professional relationships between Agencies and Clients through seminars, the AAAI Handbook and the evolution of uniform guidelines, codes and norms.
- Client Disputes: Helping settle disputes through evolution of guidelines, procedures and uniform practices; mediating between agency-client, agency-agency and agency-media to ensure quick resolution of disputes.
- Statutes and Laws: Constantly examining all relevant laws and statutes affecting the advertising industry including ESIS, Sales Tax, other taxes, Arbitration, MRTP guidelines; seeking professional advice and presenting a common viewpoint at relevant forums to protect members' interests; pursuing new avenues like Credit Insurance cover, etc.
- Training & Development: Organising seminars and workshops on effective advertising skills in creative, copy-writing, print and production, client servicing, television production, media operations, media planning, advertising as a career, etc; maintaining a fully-stocked reference library with a reprint service for members.
- Member Communications: Constantly communicating with members through circulars and correspondence; periodic publication of an updated membership directory, regular regional meetings for members and their employees.
- Public Service: Offering the services of the Association and members in significant projects, e.g. for Family Planning, the National Wastelands Development Board, Gujarat Earthquake relief, etc; encouraging the creation of such advertising by members. There are innumerable instances of successful AAAI activities, with benefits to the entire advertising industry and all others associated with it.
The AAAI functions through the active, voluntary services of a President, a Vice-President, an Honorary Secretary, an Honorary Treasurer and an Executive Committee assisted by a full-time Secretary-General and his staff. The Association maintains a permanent office, which is located at: 35 Maker Tower 'F', 3rd Floor, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai 400 005.
- Conventionally, a very senior agency person represents each member agency in the AAAI.
- The President and other office-bearers are elected every year by the General Body, which comprises all representatives of member agencies. In addition, some Executive Committee Members are co-opted to the Executive Committee and an effort is made to ensure that all zones and groups of agencies (by size) are represented on this Committee.
- Assisting the above groups are various Sub-committees, each looking after specific activity areas of the Association, and Regional Convenors who co-ordinate members' activities in different regions of the Country.
- The Executive Committee, the Regional Convenors and various Sub-Committees meet very regularly and information is constantly shared with all members.
- The AAAI is thus a true association, in the sense that nearly half of all members are directly involved with one or more of the active committee groups and the remaining members are in touch through direct communication.