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Accountants may be allowed to advertise
May, 23rd 2008

In months to come, your tax consultants name might carry more snob value than the Louis Vuitton in your wardrobe. Courtesy the new advertising permissions by the professional governing body, the friendly neighbourhood CA can now choose to morph into a super brand.

India-based finance professionals, including CAs and company secretaries (CS) who have been allowed to advertise services and areas of expertise, are set to evolve as a new category in the advertising industry one that is led by an individual as a brand. The decision by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to let their members advertise might unwittingly shift the advertising focus to individuals.

According to AdEx India analysis, advertising of financial industry in TV is up 34% during 2007 as compared to the previous year. Adspend by financial sectors in print is up by 10% during the same period and might be the real beneficiary of this decision as CAs may not be allowed to advertise on TV immediately.

It may be noted that of the 35,000-odd accounting firms in the country, 70% are proprietary firms. The decision to let CAs advertise will impact the advertising sector. If an individual can support large-scale advertising, it could emerge as a new category, says Ogilvy & Mather country head (discovery and planning) and regional director (thought leadership) Madhukar Sabnavis.

According to him, advertising in India has largely been corporate and organisation-led. For example, even political advertisement has not yet come into mainstream and is more focused on the organisation rather than an individual.

Other industry trackers second the opinion adding that the boom in financial services ad spend will help the subcategory where more individual brands will evolve out of CA consultants. There will be significant impact when professionals advertise. Financial industry is one industry which depends to a great extent on individual expertise.

Also, financial product is one category where common man requires huge help in saving and planning investments. The guidance aspect is increasingly becoming important and hence the advertising around it is likely to evolve. People would want to know of a specialist who is ready to offer guidance services, explains Siddhartha Mukherjee, who represents TAM Media Research Private Limited.

Finance professionals, however, prefer to stay conservative about the immediate fallout. The most significant credential in the profession comprises strong reputation built on integrity, independence and experience, a strong track record. It is, therefore, important to showcase credentials rather than mere publicity or visibility. The new changes should be helpful for professionals to showcase credentials within the code of conduct, says KPMG director (financial services) Sanjay Aggarwal.

Agreeing with him, Accounting Standards Board chairman Amarjit Chopra said that advertising enables ICAI members to project themselves on a bigger platform rather than create a marketing blitz. Initially, only mid-sized accounting and auditing firms are likely to capitalise on this (change of law). Small firms may not come forward aggressively since ICAI might allow advertisements only in print medium, which is very expensive.

The advertisers say that they would be able to enhance the brand value for the professionals. Chandan Nath of Mudra, Ahmedabad, says that ad agencies would help build new brands in the category. We can definitely help individuals and firms build some brand value.

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