The ad­ver­tis­ing world is abuzz at the prospect of the in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion’s highly re­spected for­mer head, Odette van der Haar, tak­ing the reins as the Jo­han­nes­burg CEO of J Wal­ter Thomp­son

Financial Mail - - MEDIA & ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE MOVES - Jeremy Maggs

Ad­ver­tis­ing’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive body, the As­so­ci­a­tion for Com­mu­ni­ca­tion & Ad­ver­tis­ing (ACA), will be hard-pressed to find a re­place­ment for out­go­ing CEO Odette van der Haar, who has joined J Wal­ter Thomp­son

(JWT) as Jo­han­nes­burg CEO. Among the agency’s clients are blue-chip brands in­clud­ing Unilever, Shell, Ford, Kel­logg’s and Nestlé.

The gen­eral con­sen­sus in the sec­tor is that Van der Haar has helped re­po­si­tion ad­ver­tis­ing as a se­ri­ous busi­ness dis­ci­pline, where ef­fec­tive work yields mea­sur­able sales re­sults.

Speak­ing to the FM, she says she leaves the ACA “fu­ture-proofed, sta­ble and fi­nan­cially se­cure, with in­creased mem­ber­ship and in­dus­try rel­e­vance as well as strong stake­holder re­la­tion­ships”.

Van der Haar has been a driv­ing force be­hind trans­for­ma­tion in the ad sec­tor, which has long been crit­i­cised for be­ing slow to change. She says among her ac­com­plish­ments has been “en­abling ac­cel­er­ated trans­for­ma­tion by driv­ing the in­dus­try’s trans­for­ma­tion agenda and goals, which saw the MAC char­ter for trans­for­ma­tion of the sec­tor, writ­ten into law”.

She says trans­for­ma­tion has re­sulted in the in­dus­try be­ing more broadly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the coun­try’s young and di­verse pop­u­la­tion and more em­brac­ing of the prin­ci­ples of

BBBEE — which elim­i­nate un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion, en­sure the im­ple­men­ta­tion of em­ploy­ment eq­uity to re­dress the ef­fects of dis­crim­i­na­tion, and to pro­mote eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and ef­fi­ciency in the work­force.

Van der Haar is also proud of spear­head­ing a code of con­duct to gov­ern ten­ders and pitches “that pro­tects agen­cies’ in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal, en­ables healthy com­pe­ti­tion that stim­u­lates growth in the sec­tor while en­sur­ing that com­pet­i­tive­ness is di­rected at con­struc­tive de­vel­op­ment and not un­war­ranted dis­rup­tion of pro­duc­tive client-agency re­la­tion­ships, un­fair loss of prof­itabil­ity for agen­cies, po­ten­tial dis­trust be­tween clients and agen­cies, or the de­crease of the gen­eral per­cep­tion of our pro­fes­sion for what it is — a free­stand­ing, highly pro­fes­sional trade in its own right”.

She con­cedes there is more to do on this front. “The in­dus­try is still plagued with pitches that de­mand free in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and de­value our cur­rency.”

Though the guide­lines are in place, there are many in­stances of big brands by­pass­ing the process and of mem­ber agen­cies, des­per­ate for work, ig­nor­ing the rules.

New role

Van der Haar will have her work cut out for her at JWT — ques­tions are be­ing asked about the fu­ture of the big net­work agen­cies and their abil­ity to adapt and be more nim­ble in terms of ideas and turn­around time.

She is con­fi­dent about the long-term fu­ture of global net­work agen­cies, say­ing JWT in par­tic­u­lar is well-skilled in dig­i­tal dis­ci­plines and this will en­able it to be rel­e­vant and use­ful to clients. JWT, she says, has been at the fore­front of global ad­ver­tis­ing for many years.

Van der Haar says in­dus­try the world over is hav­ing to adapt to dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion and chang­ing client mod­els from the old sys­tem of re­tainer fees to the new nor­mal of pro­ject­based re­mu­ner­a­tion.

“With that has come an in­creased im­por­tance on de­liv­er­ing faster, nim­bler and highly in­te­grated com­mu­ni­ca­tions, as well as a sound un­der­stand­ing of set­ting rel­e­vant, mea­sur­able key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors.”

What lessons will she take to JWT, as she crosses the di­vide from ref­eree to player? “A con­sul­ta­tive mind-set that will en­hance our re­la­tion­ship with clients, the un­der­stand­ing that cre­ativ­ity is paramount across all as­pects of busi­ness and that ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions make a tan­gi­ble, mea­sur­able con­tri­bu­tion to busi­ness suc­cess.”

On the at­tributes needed by her suc­ces­sor, Van der Haar says the in­di­vid­ual “needs to be of strong char­ac­ter with a firm moral com­pass, firmly grounded in the high­est lev­els of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance. He or she will need to de­liver a re­newed vi­sion and mis­sion to pro­tect self-reg­u­la­tion, to pro­mote the con­tri­bu­tion to busi­ness suc­cess made by ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and to en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity and growth of the sec­tor dur­ing tough eco­nomic times.”

Says group JWT CEO Jim Faulds: “Odette’s rep­u­ta­tion goes be­fore her and her im­mer­sion in strat­egy, busi­ness and dig­i­tal, are core el­e­ments in JWT’S col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ship with clients.”

ACA chair Bon­iswa Pezisa says Van der Haar leaves a legacy of or­gan­i­sa­tional distinc­tion.

Odette van der Haar

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