60 Second Spot: Zoe Osmond, NABS

Zoe Osmond, the new chief executive of NABS, tells Media Week how the benevolent society plans to re-engage with the advertising community

Zoe Osmond, chief executive, NABS
Zoe Osmond, chief executive, NABS

MW: What is the biggest misconception about NABS?

ZO: People assume that NABS is only there for you when you are going through a life crisis and that you have to be in dire straits to call us. Or, as one sceptic put it, that NABS is for people "who can’t afford to put petrol in their Porsches".

The reality is that we offer career advice, support, training, financial assistance and social networking. We have provided these services for many years but we haven’t properly engaged with people or educated the industry about our offer.

NABS was set up in 1913 by newspaper editors worried about what would happen to their dependents if they were forced to fight in the First World War; many media people critique the relevance of NABS but its heritage is rooted in their terrain.

ZO: What have been your first steps to re-energise NABS since you took over as chief executive in February?

MW: I spent my first few months talking to as many people as possible at media owners, media agencies and creative agencies, and it became very clear that NABS needs to have greater relevance to the industry today.

NABS is the only body that represents both media and creative agencies - as emphasised in our new strapline "for everyone in the world of advertising" - and it is incumbent on us to harness that community spirit.

Every time I talk to younger people in the industry they say they crave more opportunities to network and glean knowledge from different sectors of the industry, and NABS is in a position to do that.

MW: The acronym NABS stands for the National Advertising Benevolent Society - what is the difference between a benevolent society and a charity?

ZO: We are a charity in the sense that we survive on individual and corporate donations and the money generated by our fundraising events. But whereas charities are for those in crisis, we want to become known as a service that is there to help and guide the majority of people in the industry.

A benevolent society is all about a community of individuals set up for common financial and social purpose, and this is absolutely spot-on in terms of how we want to be there for each and every individual in the advertising world.

MW: Which changes have been introduced so far?

ZO: Our new website is up and running, where for the first time you can book and donate online and learn about our events. And Rainey Kelly has developed an ad campaign to tell people about what we do, which is running on digital escalator panels, in Metro and the MediaGuardian and in key trade press titles.

We also have a strong events programme. Tickets are on sale for our Audience with Adam Crozier at the London College of Fashion on 12 October, and on 18 November we are holding a speed mentoring event to give young people in advertising the chance to ask senior people questions about their career.

We are also introducing a series of bi-monthly workshops called Forward Thinking Forums. The next event, in December, will be chaired by Future’s chief executive Stevie Spring on: "Why aren’t there more women on the board?"

MW: And what about the NABS Time Club?

ZO: This idea was conceived in 1999 by former J Walter Thompson chairman Jeremy Bullmore, where we ask industry experts to donate five hours of their time to NABS, through events, talks or mentoring. We have a fantastic list of about 50 people - including Mark Lund, Stephen Miron and Rory Sutherland - and their expertise will be accessed at a series of events to be launched over the next year.

MW: Is the Big Bash your biggest fundraiser?

ZO: Yes - the Big Bash raises more than £1m each time. Pippa Glucklich from Arena Media and Mirror Group Newspapers’ David Emin will chair the Big Bash committee next year, before Emin takes over on his own from 2012.

Another fantastic advocate of NABS is Ron Miller, formerly of LWT and TMD Carat, whose annual golf tournament - which he has run almost single-handedly for many years - raises a phenomenal amount of money for our cause.

MW: Why is the social side of NABS so important?

ZO: People forget that when you arrive in the industry you are welcomed with open arms, you do a training course and then you are left to get on with the job. So young people in advertising - unlike the great and the good - don’t have many opportunities to meet people from other sectors of the industry.

They have a craving for a greater sense of community spirit in an industry that is actually quite disparate. NABS really needs to engage with the younger people in the industry, given that 45% of our employee base is under 30. It is absolutely key that we start to engage with people coming into the industry and make sure that they develop and do well.

MW: What is your message to the industry?

ZO: I would love everybody to re-engage with NABS, revisit our website, come to some of our events and start to realise that we are there to advise and guide them throughout every stage of their career. If people want to give £5 to Save the Children, then they should give it. But if they’ve another £5 that would help those within their industry in all sorts of different ways, we hope they’ll do that too."

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