To run or not to run?

NEXT month the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) will elect a new council, and a news portal has reported that Datuk Johnny Mun will not run as president.

StarBizWeek meets up with Mun to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

From the interview, Mun seems willing to make way for new blood, but he also says he may consider running if nominated.

“I’ve served on the council for about 10 years (the last two as president). If there are suitable candidates to take over the helm, why not? I think we should always be open to new ideas and new leadership,” Mun says.

Last week Marketing magazine’s portal reported that Mun would be calling it a day at the upcoming biennial general meeting (BGM) after one term. It said vice-president Nicky Lim was poised to succeed him.

So, does Mun plan to run again? He replies: “It depends on the members. If they think I’ve done a reasonable job and request that I continue, I will see what the situation is like.”

Mun, however, has not volunteered for nomination. The 4As will hold its BGM on March 27, and members have until next week to nominate candidates.

“If somebody nominates me, then I will consider. That is a different perspective altogether. If no one nominates me, then we’ll go with the flow,” he says.

Mun says that being president is a huge responsibility because the association is looking after the whole industry. “It can take a lot of toll on one’s business and time. As you know, it’s a voluntary assignment. While it looks good, it’s not an enviable position as it is really a full-time appointment.”

Even if he does not remain president, Mun says he is volunteering his services to the new council in any area they would find him useful.

Mun set up a new ad agency a few months ago (see story below) but he denies that the decision on whether to remain president has anything to do with it.

On his proudest achievements during his presidency, Mun cites two milestones in relation to improving education and professionalism in the industry.

The first milestone was the 4As council getting the prestigious Berlin School of Creative Leadership to hold its courses, which are normally conducted on campus, in Malaysia. “Not only that, but they have also tailored the programmes for our needs,” he says.

The 4As has also invited the Berlin School to use Kuala Lumpur as an “education hub” whereby the 4As would market its programmes across the South-East Asian region or even Asia. “They’ve come back with the suggestions on how to do it. We will try to modify it to fit our needs in Malaysia. We’ll look at our needs first, and any balance of the space available will be marketed to others in the region.”

In the last two years, people from Hong Kong and Singapore were among the participants at the programmes conducted by the Berlin School in Malaysia.

“Over time, the 4As hopes to engage the Government to help us so that we can conduct courses throughout the year rather than just once a year,” he says.

The second milestone is making the advertising agencies and their clients more aware of the need to protect intellectual property (IP). “With the introduction of the pitch fee in 2011, we have managed to educate clients as well as agencies of the importance of safeguarding IP. Clients can select agencies based on credentials or track record, but when they ask agencies to put ideas on paper for them to see, I think it is critical for them to help defray the agencies’ administrative costs,” Mun says, adding that clients must treat 4As agencies with some degree of professionalism.

Among the efforts to boost the industry’s professionalism was the introduction of the Boomerang Membership Accreditation Programme in 2009, whereby 4As members are required to accumulate a certain number of points annually through, among others, training their staff.

Mun reveals that the 4As is now looking to introduce a certification programme – a kind of proficiency test – for those seeking a promotion within the industry, such as from account executive to account manager.

“We are working with the IPA (Institute of Practioners in Advertising) in London to come up with this. We hope to roll it out by the middle of the year,” he says.

“With certification, we know that our people are properly trained. In the years gone by, people moved through the ranks by virtue of the shortage of people in the industry; and some were promoted to posts beyond their capabilities. What would the clients think of you if you’re not able to deal with certain situations?

“While we want people to be promoted so that they can earn more, they must be properly equipped to do so. After all, we are advisers and brand guardians to our clients.”

Mun assures that the cost of sitting for the proficiency test will be low and that it is not compulsory. “However, after we introduce the test, I think more and more employers will be looking at certified candidates. This will at least give us a yardstick to measure a candidate’s capabilities besides just hearing the candidates’ own claims and maybe recommendations from somebody. If he’s so good, why didn’t the person making the recommendations hire him?”

Source: The Star