Stronger Together - Why we need an advertising association in the OECS

Accela Marketing
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April 20, 2022
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minute read

Within three years of operation in its home territory of Saint Lucia, Accela Marketing began entertaining the idea of revolutionizing the local industry by aiming for the same international standards of inter-industry cooperation and joint action. Accela began exploring the possibility of forming a local Saint Lucia Advertising Association. Though the small pond of Saint Lucian marketing agencies tends to be competitive, we believe an association which represents the interests of all agencies on the island could improve the overall industry.

Advertising Agencies Associations are a type of Trade/Industry Association or Business Support Organisation (BSO) which exist for the same reason all other such non-profit organisations exist. BSOs are open to the public and are a form of resource organisation that seeks to bolster all entities that operate within a certain industry. There are BSOs for legal, manufacturing, creative, agricultural, tourism industries and more. The Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture is an example of a BSO, as is the Saint Lucia Manufacturers Association.

A BSO aids the client companies within a particular industry in maximizing joint resources and knowledge, for while competition is good, collaboration is far more profitable for all involved. Together, the client members within a BSO can improve the overall standards within their industry through the following:

Tangible Support

From finding better talent, to head hunting, to co-working spaces, to collectively wielding more power to purchase higher levels of training, tools and access to experts, a BSO can coordinate such enhancements for all its client members.

Imagine if all advertising agencies in the OECS were able to attend seminars, workshops and play shops where they get coaching by industry giants from Madison Avenue or Google and Facebook. A single small agency in an OECS Member State will never be able to afford such a thing but together with other agencies from all over the Eastern Caribbean, the sky becomes the limit.

Financial Strength

Currently, most marketing agencies operating within the Eastern Caribbean are stymied when it comes to options in certain supplier services.

If all agencies within a particular region have a shared need, let us say the need for stellar 21st Century printing services but no such resource exists, they can collectively as a BSO access greater credit services to purchase what they need. Some of the resources and tools sorely lacking in the OECS are:

  • Studios and sound stages up to standard with what exists in the larger markets
  • Special effects and animation talent and resources

By applying for grant funding as a group, these things are within easier reach.

Political Influence

BSOs and trade groups particularly in the USA and UK have been instrumental in swaying public policy, for better or worse. On the latter side we have tobacco and oil companies that collectively lobby Government to enable more of their disease and pollution causing commercial and industrial activities. Often these lobbies finance politicians and as a result have a voice in policy making that can be detrimental to the public interest. But there are many positive examples of associations wielding their collective power for good.

Media Smart, the UK advertising industry’s education programme, enables young people to confidently navigate the media they consume and to identify, interpret and critically evaluate all forms of advertising. The non-profit organisation creates free media and digital literacy resources for teachers, parents and youth organisations working with 7-16-year olds, which look at important subjects like social media and digital advertising, influencer marketing and body image. Learn more about Media Smart at If you are a member, you will also be able to see dedicated reports by Credos that provide insight on advertising with regards to children and young people. - Advertising Association UK

An Advertising Agencies Association of the OECS could for example set standards in the following areas:

  • Messaging for alcohol brands in the region particularly around youth
  • Advertising space designated for indigenous SMEs/MMEs and public/cultural services vs. multinational commercial corporations
  • Protecting consumers from deceptive advertising
  • Bidding and consultancy application compensation and standards
  • Ecologically and aesthetically friendly Out of Home (OOH) Advertising to prevent marring the natural landscape of our Caribbean islands
  • Protection of intellectual property
  • Protection of creative talent

Higher overall standards within the industry benefit everyone and help all operators in the region to thrive. It also makes the individual members more eligible to compete at an international level. Collectively, ad agencies can also make demands upon Government in areas such as:

  • Higher caliber political campaign ads and proper political debates
  • Legal literacy among the public so they understand their citizen’s rights and laws of their country

Pop Culture Influence

In the 21st Century, the aim is to be more inclusive, humane, tolerant and less beholden to colonial/traditional thinking that excludes or demeans certain groups of people. As a result, in countries with Advertising Agency Associations, pressure has been put to elevate certain kinds of messaging or wield certain brands for good. Dehumanized portrayals of women to sell alcohol is now frowned upon and some alcohol brands like Stag, “A Man’s Beer” have even taken it to another level by being outspoken against things like gender-based violence. Ads featuring disabled people in a positive light doing regular things. Ads that challenge stereotypes about certain classes. All of these things eventually have a net positive effect on creating a more enlightened and empathetic society.

Collective Good

The Advertising Agencies Association UK can come out and make statements in solidarity with certain causes and collectively call for donations to a cause from the public and/or their clients. Their most recent statement is in support of Ukraine. in the US in the early 2000s the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) began running advertisements before films that advocate against movie piracy over the Internet.

There are so many social issues and causes that require addressing in our OECS region that our advertising agencies can speak about with a collective voice and even do Corporate Social Responsibility around as a group. While one agency may not be able to afford mass advertising across the region on say, an anti-street-harassment campaign (an issue plaguing our region and earning us some negative

reviews internationally as far as safety for women go) a campaign can be launched by contributions from agencies within the whole region.

Peer Recognition and Awards

The Advertising Association of Trinidad and Tobago and the Advertising Association of Jamaica both have country awards for the best creative work in their market. These large markets catering to a consumer audience of millions have far older creative marketing industries than our islands in the OECS do, with T&T’s advertising industry stretching as far backs as the early 1900s. There is no reason why the agencies within the Eastern Caribbean markets cannot begin blazing a trail in this regard. Friendly creative competition is a good thing. It improves the overall IQ and EQ of the output. We want better ads in our region. We want bolder statements! We what revolutionary messaging! Without a home-grown association in Saint Lucia, the largest market within the OECS, Accela Marketing has sought the next best thing which is to become a member of the Caribbean Advertising Federation and through this association we have won several creative awards against agencies far larger and in far larger markets. We believe other agencies can also make the grade, but we must begin within our market and then our region.

Getting Started

How would we go about forming such a BSO? The first steps may be taken within each island through the Coalition of Services such as The Saint Lucia Coalition of Services which specializes supporting BSOs within the service industries. The OECS Secretariat is another agency through which such collaboration and clustering can happen with funding support from development programs or agencies such as Compete Caribbean or Caribbean Export Development Agency.

Many argue that associations are too protectionist and bar external competition. Many worry about the power of too much influence associations may have. However, protection and power are not necessarily bad things in small island states that are thrust into a global marketplace with giants. We need strength in numbers to stand toe to toe with the multinational corporations of the world.

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