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The State of the RAF

January 26, 2011

Ad Industry,Addys,RAF,Rochester

Watching the state of the Union Address from President Barack Obama inspired me to give my own State of the RAF speech, and well since there is no avenue (yet) for me to give a citywide address on the state of our industry, I’ll have to write about it in an RAF blog post. As president of the RAF I do not have President Obama’s struggles of party lines, big egos, hidden agendas and spin doctoring, hmm… maybe advertising and politics are more alike than I think.

I have lived in Rochester for almost ten years. Within that time I have seen many ad agencies sadly close their doors. Saatchi & Saatchi, Buck & Pulleyn, EMA’s strong Rochester presence, and ICE to name a few. Our industry in Rochester cannot sustain losing one advertising agency every two years. For our creative community to thrive, we as an industry, need to work together to stop the bleeding. One way we can accomplish this is to stop the brain drain. The RAF is dedicated to our creative community by developing programs, fostering mentorship and sponsorships that educate, inspire and celebrate great work. Our program, 20 Minutes & a Beer, is a huge success. It’s a program designed to showcase the talented individuals in our market, while drinking a cold one with peers. I have seen over a dozen of these events thus far. Each attended by at least 30 people, and the crowd is always different. It’s a true testament that we are tailoring the content of these events to appeal to all facets of our industry. We are fighting the brain drain.

Our newest program is the RAF Backstage Pass. It’s a series of events tailored specifically to the broadcast community. Last fall was the first annual Cannes Lion Event, where we brought Rochester industry professionals together to give insights on the winners and how it relates to us in our market.

We are ushering in a new age of the Rochester advertising scene. Many new agencies, design shops, and interactive agencies have started to have success. These small 2 to 5 person shops are the future of our industry. They have been forced to adapt to the ever changing rules of our business. Bygone are the days of traditional media. Guerilla marketing, the internet, social media and phone apps are their wheelhouse. 10 years from now they will emerge to be the next Partners + Napier, Martino Flynn, or Jay Advertising. They will be rewriting the rules of how to grow a clients brand.

Since our market has changed so too has the RAF board. We realigned the members, formed new board seats, and cut the outdated. Our board is now comprised of a nice mix of agencies, freelancers, marketing professionals, and key client contacts. We polled our membership, asked tough questions, and got back honest responses. These responses have already been placed into action. Look for some major revisions in the Addy’s this year.

We cut socials from the RAF calendar. Not because we don’t like to drink (trust me, we like to drink). But we realized that social only events do not ladder back to our core mission of inspiration, education, and celebration of great work. Social only events only served to continue the stigma of the RAF being a closed tight knit advertising fraternity. A stigma that we have spent a lot of time tying to break. And for us to grow we needed to adapt, and listen to our membership. We are fighting the brain drain.

We better aligned ourselves with the national organization of the AAF. There are many benefits RAF members receive from this affiliation. Benefits like savings on FedEx shipments, discounted publication subscriptions and savings of supplies for the office. I urge you to take advantage of these benefits. Let your membership work harder for you. Your membership perk is not only discounted tickets to the Addy’s.

We are in the process of creating a new program for the freelance community. Realizing the past Freelance Expo had it’s place but now the dwindling number of advertising agencies and the birth of the information age has forced us to refresh, renew this staple of the event calendar. Big things are in the works and I am happy to say that by the 2011-2012 RAF season, we’ll have a new program and initiatives directed to the freelance community. Think of it as the Freelance Expo 2.0.

We have renewed our commitment to the students of Upstate, New York. Our expanded partnership with RIT has forced us to look out our organization with a fresh perspective. To put in processes that insure the RAF is working as hard and as efficiently as it can, to realize that accountability is our greatest ally in an organization comprised entirely of volunteers. We created a new program, 20 Minutes and a Pizza. In this program the RAF brings agency and marketing professionals to the campus of RIT, to inspire the students, to educate and mentor. We at the RAF want to ensure that after students graduate they stay here in this area. To grow our industry in Rochester, not shrink it. Their talent and creativity is key to the revitalization our creative community. We need them to help us fight the brain drain.

This is a great city. It’s a place where many blue chip clients call home. In fact, the RAF stays strong due to the generosity of corporations like Xerox. I would love for our city to be viewed as the next Minneapolis, or dare I say Miami. There certainly is enough talent here. Each year at the Addy’s we prove that even though Rochester may not be a big city, we do big things, service big clients and think up big ideas. Our addy winners are successful in the District 2 and national level Addy Awards, and this success is just one of the ways Rochester can become a creative powerhouse. This year the Addy’s turns 20. Our theme is the old time revival. We’re getting back to our roots to celebrate what is really important to our profession. The creative idea.

And finally, I urge you to get involved. Help us help the creative community. If you’ve ever wanted to take an expanded role, or maybe even serve as RAF board member, please let us know. Rochester needs bright and eager marketing and advertising professionals to lead the RAF for the next 20 years. The state of the RAF is good, but the involvement of others will make it great. President Obama talked about the past vs the future. He spoke of not fighting over what has been, but look to what we all can do moving forward. I’d say we could do the same.

Thanks and let’s party hard at the Addy’s on March 24th, but the only way to salvation is through submission. Enter you work today, the final call for entries due February 11th. And, like our President after his speech… If you want my autograph… I can oblige.

Prez Joe