Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A High Price To Pay

It’s a funny thing about parties. They are thrown with the best intentions and those that attend have nothing other to do than have a good time. If only it was that simple. First there's the stress about what to wear, then who to be seen with, who not to be seen with, which after-party have you been invited to, etc. If you are the host of the party you run the risk of upsetting someone you didn’t want to by not inviting them when you really ought to have. Of course, this is not a problem when people have to buy tickets to your party. If you want to go you buy a ticket; if you don’t you don’t. Simple.
The AICP know how to throw a good party. They’ve been doing it successfully for years and I have been attending for many of those years. People fly in from distant lands to attend. I know there are awards and panels, etc, but the main attraction is the party. And rightly so…it’s a great crowd at a great venue. Hard not to have a great party at MoMA.
It was great to catch up last night with so many people - some I hadn’t seen for years. Of course at some stage the conversation took on this sort of shape:
Reveller 1: Hello, how are you?
Reveller 2: Great…great…how are you??
R1: Great. Yeah…great. So how’s it going?
R2: Really well
R1: Great.
R2: You?
R1: Same. Yep. Really good. I mean we’ve had the odd blip this year.
R2: Us too. Bad start to the year but it’s hopefully picking up.
R1: The end of last year was rough for us but it seems a lot better at the moment.
R2: We’re actually quite busy at the moment but you know what budgets are like…
R1: Listen, I think this year is about survival and getting through this thing in as good a shape as possible.
R2: Absolutely…So, did you hear about…
Okay, you get the point. Those that didn’t have that conversation at some stage of the evening either weren’t comfortable enough to share that information or they felt they didn’t need to say it. But I’m not here to rant about the state of the industry (at least not today). We all know what it’s like. Who amongst us are able to charge exactly the same rate for the same services that we were last year or the year before? My guess is that you are either achieving lower rates or are holding your price but doing much more for it.
My question to the AICP is you must know that people are having conversations like these? I know many who are actively involved in the AICP and all are smart people who I have much respect for. If you are conscious that people have lost their jobs, some companies have closed and generally margins dropped significantly would this not have been a great opportunity for you to show some sensitivity and to lower ticket prices accordingly? $600 is a lot of money – I’m sure that MoMA doesn’t come cheaply and the food and drink needs to be covered. But seriously, would the party have been less fun if it had been held in a warehouse in Williamsburg? And I understand that you may have had to book this place way in advance but could you not have opted for a cheaper alternative to the fancy food that was served? As it was there appeared to be less bars than usual (unless there was a hidden one I didn’t find).
I just don’t think many other people in the industry are offering the same services (or less) than they were a year or two ago for the same price that they charged then. I was recently sent a link to a video message from Kathy Kiely, President of Ad Club: Her response to the current situation is thoughtful and shows great understanding.
So wasn’t last night a missed opportunity to show that the AICP is in touch with those it is seeking to represent? As I said, I didn’t have to buy a ticket. But I did. And a lot of other people did. And it was a great party. And maybe people just needed an excuse to escape from all of the mundanities. I just think that the AICP has stature within the industry and it would be great to show some strength and support by making a gesture that would acknowledge the state of the economy and helping to show leadership and guidance that we will all need to come out the other side.