Wednesday 25 August 2021

ACA’s road to accreditation

Hannah Sturrock, National Head of Engagement, Advertising Council Australia

Advertising Council Australia (ACA) is committed to advancing the practice, reputation and influence of the advertising industry through career development, championing creativity, and demonstrating the value that our industry contributes to commerce and society.

Our vision is to make advertising the most valued professional services industry in Australia. No biggie. 

This audacious goal guides our overall strategy, inspiring initiatives like The Growth Agenda partnership with The Australian, and justifies our relentless investment in education, research and the value of creativity.

The vision sounds lofty, and to be brutally frank, it is. We’re up against doctors, teachers and judges – disciplines that regularly top Roy Morgan’s annual Image of Professions Survey which ranks professions based on ethics and honesty.

‘Advertising people’ as we’re dismissively dubbed, reliably rank at the bottom of the list, just above the much-maligned car salesmen and below real estate agents. 

Whether or not we respect this highly stereotypical survey as a barometer for our professional reputation, it’s something to ponder. Because while we don’t expect people to put their lives, finances or children’s education in our hands, we do need businesses and marketers to trust us with other precious cargo, namely reputations, recall, sales growth, market share, Net Promoter Scores and fame. 

Our people, perspectives and professional advice are powerful accelerants in helping businesses and brands achieve their potential. We work tirelessly to prove our value, and take our professional responsibility seriously. We just don’t have a reliable method to prove it.

Until now. 

As you all know, ACA is on a journey to introduce agency accreditation as a way of encouraging and formalising professional excellence, providing a universally understood symbol of compliance and achievement. Industry accreditation schemes are fundamental to industries like accounting, architecture, travel, health, hospitality and sport. 

Like our vision, accreditation is not a short-term activation, but a long-term brand building exercise that takes commitment, belief and patience to deliver and realise the ROI.

So, where are we on the journey?

ACA is currently in the process of examining the data collected as part of the 2021 membership renewal process, to benchmark where our member agencies are currently sitting and inform the provisional accreditation framework and tiers. 

Accreditation tiers will be designed around baseline business compliance, bespoke industry standards like reconciliation action plans and people and culture metrics, and will integrate a points-based professional development system to capture and measure ongoing investment in training, teaching and judging.

Next year, ACA’s Accreditation Committee, chaired by Deputy Chair Mike Rebelo, will review performance against the provisional framework, gather feedback from members, and refine the delivery and reporting systems required to support the program. The intention is to formally roll out accreditation in 2023.

The committee is simultaneously investigating the technical and functional requirements including software integration and investment required to design a customisable accreditation tracking system. We envisage this being released for beta testing in late 2022.

ACA is also recruiting a project manager to join the committee on a paid part-time basis, to support the selection and implementation of the technical solution over the next 12 months.

While accreditation isn’t a silver-bullet solution to changing public perceptions of ‘advertising people’, it’s a serious and meaningful commitment to industry accountability. 

And that’s the first step in our epic quest for respect, recognition and Roy Morgan redemption.

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