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Our President’s Reception is an annual event and one that we very much enjoy as a marker each year in the calendar – it allows us an opportunity to look back and to look forward. Whatever Covid-19 might throw at us in terms of restrictions on how we can get together, we were determined to mark 2020 with a Reception of some kind.
This is particularly so because during my time in the role at the AA, we have often delved into the archives to see at what our predecessors did, whether that was during the launch years in the late 1920s and early 1930s, or during the years of World War II right through to the big economic recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. The archive material, held at the fantastic History of Advertising Trust in Norfolk, is a rich resource of information about our advertising industry. The association’s own materials are full of strong and consistent messaging about the strengths of responsible, trusted advertising as well as evidence of its role in supporting society during times of challenge. As such, it’s often inspired ideas in our team about things we should do today and the way we should present ourselves as an industry.
As the date of this year’s Reception approached and it was then inevitably cancelled because of the coronavirus lockdown, it became clear it was our turn to create something which would join the archives for future colleagues to look back on. While it was important to record the unique challenges we face right now, it was also important to capture the light-hearted nature of the Annual Reception – it is a time when our industry comes together and reflects, normally with a glass of champagne in hand. If you’ve attended one, you’ll know the air is full of the optimism that our industry naturally has thanks to its creative roots and an irrepressible attitude to make things happen. Whatever the challenge, the best of advertising will take it on and beat it.
We’re fortunate to have a President, Keith Weed, who is also a trustee on the board of Grange Park Opera, a fabulous new music venue just outside the M25 in Surrey. He arranged access to the stage and auditorium through the founder, Wasfi Kani OBE, and we booked a film and sound crew (aka Fintan and Tom who are attached to the opera house) to meet us there, along with our Chair, Philippa Brown and our Chief Executive, Stephen Woodford. There was the basis of a script but there was also a fair amount of improvisation, particularly when we stood on that stage for the first time. On arrival, it was the scene for a photo-shoot by The Times with one of the world’s most famous baritones who left stage right on a Triumph motorbike. Naturally, we tried our best to make the most of what they left behind.
The rest, including the reference to the film, Help! by The Beatles, fell into place on the day. Our fabulous friends at BrandFuel (who have been helping us with the rapid editing of video content for all our online events) turned the raw footage and audio into a short 20-minute film to serve as a record of this period. The film records such things as new board members joining the AA – Karen Buchanan of McCann Manchester and Channel 4’s Jonathan Allen who becomes a Vice-Chair – as well as the news that we will be leaving our offices in Artillery Row in October to give greater flexibility to work with our members in the months ahead. It also welcomes another new member in BIMA, the British Interactive Media Association, and reminds us of the association’s mission to renew our industry’s focus on responsibility in advertising. Themes such as rebuilding public trust in advertising, taking positive climate action and building a more inclusive workforce all remain as vital as ever. But alongside that is the job our industry has to support the UK’s social and economic recovery, a recovery which, at the time of writing, has only just begun.
Our thanks go to all those who helped make the film happen and we strongly recommend a visit to Grange Park Opera when it reopens. Take a picnic; the grounds are fabulous.
Finally, as much as we enjoyed making the film, we hope it will be the last time we need to produce a record of this kind. We hope next year we will return to a gathering with our friends and colleagues in a more traditional way and location.
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