Let's have peace among agencies and goodwill to all media

Dear Santa, I have been extremely well-behaved all year, so please could you grant my wishes, listed below, as my Christmas treats.

Tess Alps, chief executive of Thinkbox
Tess Alps, chief executive of Thinkbox

Pantomime heroes
When casting this year's pantomime, please can advertising be given the role of hero and not the villain for a change?

We're tired of being portrayed as Captain Hook or the evil giant. We want to be Dick Whittington, bringing business and wealth to brands, or the witty and ingenious Puss in Boots - or I'd even settle for being one of Snow White's hard-working dwarves.

Advertising has been blamed for just about every social ill, from fat kids to binge drinking. Those problems are serious and need to be addressed, but advertising's negative contribution is negligible.

However, advertising is a tremendous force for good; it can and does help solve society's problems. It looks as though the Government is going to stop demonising us, thanks to the economic crisis and Stephen Carter, and I'd like journalists and single issue lobbying groups to follow their lead in 2009.

Stuffed turkeys
Please could you ensure that every ad that bores, insults or degrades people gets well and truly stuffed before it sees the frosty light of day in 2009.  

A Christmas carol
The Christmas Carol - even the Muppet version - puts me in exactly the right Christmassy spirit. The lesson the skinflint Scrooge is taught - that his meanness damages everybody around him and, ultimately, himself - is one that some procurement departments ought to learn.

I fear there are going to be a few procurement Scrooges at advertisers who exploit the financial situation to put the squeeze on, calling unnecessary pitches and renegotiating terms already pared to the bone. Please give agencies the confidence not to sit and take it like a bunch of Bob Cratchits.

This wish is about getting rid of a certain class of charades. Not the game of charades, which I love. There's nothing better than making yourself and others look like total eejits, trying to convey A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian to your Auntie Joan after the Queen's speech.

The charades I'd have banned are those studies masquerading as serious pieces of research, when they are nothing more than a bit of PR flim-flam. "Ooh, I know, let's put a questionnaire up on a social networking site, interview people on their way out of a cinema, film some vox-pops in the street, or ask everyone in the agency their views via e-mail. It'll cost us nothing but we'll still get a story/presentation fodder out of it."

Peace among agencies and goodwill to all media
I'm not totally naïve. I understand everyone is competing for as big a slice of the market as possible. But the cake is shrinking and every time one medium rubbishes another, or an agency casts doubt on the integrity of its rival, a few more marketing pounds get diverted from advertising into price-cutting, promotions and Buy One Get One Free offers.

We need to stick together to promote the value of advertising and the high standards of our industry. We can all shout about how brilliant our own medium/agency is. But could you please ensure everyone in the industry respects their rivals too?

That's it. Thanks very much. And take it easy yourself - in terms of mince pies, I mean, not work.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox tess.alps@haymarket.com

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