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News Analysis 18 Aug 2020 - 3 min read

Advertising not a dirty word: Comms Council goes back to the future with Advertising Council rebrand

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

ACA Chair Mark Green: "We always come back to advertising as the thing that drives what we do, because it's that influence of commerce and the ability to try and sell products and services and influence agendas, which is the proverb of advertising."

Ten years after "advertising" was dumped from the peak ad agency industry body's identity in a now thwarted plan to bring media agencies into the fold by former ZenithOptimedia CEO Belinda Rowe - and then chair of the Advertising Federation of Australia - The Communications Council yesterday rebranded itself back to the Advertising Council Australia. The industry group wants to "reclaim" advertising as a good thing.

What you need to know:

  • After reassessing its financial position and strategy, The Communications Council has rebranded.
  • CEO of the rebadged Advertising Council Australia (ACA), Tony Hale, says the relaunch was about reclaiming the term "advertising" and “reinjecting confidence in our industry.”
  • ACA Chair and ANZ Lead for Accenture Interactive Mark Green says the industry body was doing "too many things" and needed to simplify its offering for members.
  • Long-time absentee from the industry group, WPP, returned months ago with CEO Jens Monsees taking a board seat although some WPP agencies like Ogilvy are understood to be staying out.
  • There will be a greater focus on driving benchmark industry standards and more defined agency accreditation.
  • ACA board member and Publicis CEO Michael Rebelo - who also sits on the board of the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) - says the accreditation process and strategy will take the lead from initiatives at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) in the UK.
  • Green says the ACA will now take a more long-term view as it looks to become "more anchored".

The Communications Council, Australia’s peak industry body for companies in the advertising industry, has relaunched today with a new name, the Advertising Council Australia (ACA).

Formerly the Advertising Federation of Australia (AFA), it morphed to the Communications Council just over ten years ago on January 1, 2010 in a plan to build a more unified agency sector and bring media agencies and the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) into an umbrella group. 

Although the chair of the AFA-turned Comms Council at the time was a leading media agency CEO, ZenithOptimedia's Belinda Rowe - former boss of Publicis Media's UK operations and current non-executive director of the Hamish McClennan-chaired Here, There & Everywhere (HTE) Australian media group - the MFA has remained staunchly independent.

The relaunch entails an overhauled strategic direction that will see a number of key initiatives rolled out through 2021 aimed at building value for ACA members and the broader advertising industry.

ACA CEO Tony Hale said today’s relaunch was about reclaiming the term ‘advertising’ and “reinjecting confidence in our industry.”

Russel Howcroft, a long-time AFA, Comms Council and advertising industry advocate, former PwC Chief Creative Officer and now on-air presenter for Melbourne's 3AW, said he was a fan of the move. "The strategy for changing from the AFA to the Communications Council was to have more of an umbrella name to get all parties involved," he told Mi3. "It was actually about trying to get media in the tent. If that hasn't worked, go hard with 'advertising'."   

The relaunch follows extensive consultation with ACA members who have also backed the project as the industry attempts to build confidence back in the broader advertising industry.

Here's what ACA Chair and ANZ Lead for Accenture Interactive Mark Green said during a media briefing yesterday:

"Maybe the Communications Council was formed in a time when we were trying to reinvent ourselves based on technology. But the reality is that we always come back to advertising as the thing that drives what we do, because it's that influence of commerce and the ability to try and sell products and services and influence agendas, which is the proverb of advertising.

"We want to give that its most modern meaning today and be clear about that and take ownership of what we want to be and be explicit about it.

"The organisation wasn't in as good a shape as it could be. And not only I think from a financial standpoint, but from the focus that we were putting on our members' business and driving the dialogue with our members. And we did many things well, but probably too many things. So we restructured and overhauled our key programs and focused on some key initiatives and then kind of went on a journey talking to members about the strategic direction, the strategy and what they were looking for from an industry body.

"I was having a chat to the chap that runs Brand Finance and one of the early things he said to me when I took over as chair was change the bloody name. The communications industry is what Telstra is part of. It's not what the advertising industry is known for. And I certainly on [international travel] boarding cards over 20-odd years, advertising is what I’ve listed as my occupation.

"I think as an industry body, we really need to be anchored in an industry. So I believe that purpose reflects that. So we're talking about taking a long term view and again, naming ourselves as the advertising industry body is part of that."

On WPP rejoining the ACA after a long absence, Green says: "WPP have been outside the Advertising Council of Australia. But Jens [Monsees] and the team have jumped on board this year. So we have definitely the sort of widest view of our industry. And, you know, as as a nation, we contribute over $40 billion into the local economy. 

"We're much better represented across the industry. I think the the work we're doing in and around the key pillars is much more pronounced, so they probably felt like they'd be on the outside if they weren't inside trying to drive the industry forward.

"We need to make sure that we're representing the whole of the industry, it's a good inclusion because they're a big part of it. It’s also part of the renewed focus, which is making sure that we do represent the industry and its players, not have some sort of factions sitting outside.

And here's a little of what Publicis CEO, ACA and MFA board director Mike Rebelo said yesterday:

"If we're looking at how do we make advertising one of the most valuable professional services, then we need to start to look at things like training and development and compliance around that. I guess we have in the past, and you look to the IPA in the UK, that's that's one of the things they do very well.

"I was very impressed with how the IPA as an industry body really drives the agency members to really invest in training, development and continuous learning. And that's something that you need to comply with every year to be accredited as an IPA member agency.

"So with the Advertising Council of Australia, that will now become one of the main pillars of the future strategy. We already offer a great range of high demand courses, training and development right now through AWARD school but there isn't really compliance around that. The accreditation allows us to provide a more structured system and have it become something agencies can wear as a badge of honour."


Key ACA programs and initiatives outlines in a statement yesterday include:

  • Accreditation – ACA will be reintroducing accreditation for its members in the second half of 2020 and evolving over the following two years to set minimum standards for members to meet.
  • Reconciliation Action Plan - ACA has submitted a plan to Reconciliation Australia. Amongst the key programs is a commitment to help build pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to the industry.
  • Advertising Industry Labour Agreement – ACA has worked with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in conjunction with the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) to create an Advertising Industry Labour Agreement (AILA), enabling the industry to cover key skill shortages. This benchmark agreement is available only for ACA and MFA members and will be instrumental in attracting and retaining top talent globally.
  • A completely revamped awards program for both the Effies and AWARD Awards – both have been designed to not just celebrate the very best work but develop a greater understanding of what leads to cutting edge creativity and proven effectiveness.
  • Advertising Effectiveness - ACA has already published two ground-breaking reports (Australian Advertising Effectiveness Rules and Winning or Losing in a Recession) authored by world authorities on effectiveness, Rob Brittain and Peter Field. These reports, which have achieved international recognition, will be complemented by a series of future studies that will help build insights into what drives effectiveness in a fragmented marketing landscape.

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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

Market Voice

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