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Public affairs matters

3 min, 2 sec read
14:11 PM | 22 June 2011

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My route into the advertising industry has been unconventional to say the least. I started out in Westminster, interning for a couple of MPs as a student. After graduating with a degree in politics from the University of East Anglia, I started full time work as a parliamentary assistant to a Somerset MP, where I worked for nearly three years.  So yeah, it is fair to say I’m a politics geek. So how and why did I get into the advertising industry?

Whilst working for my Member of Parliament, I worked on legislation; a private members bill (where a back bench MP can put forward their own piece of legislation) and assisted my boss with various projects.  It was during the time where my boss had his private members bill to reduce fuel poverty across the UK, where I got the opportunity to work with trade bodies, charity campaigners, and a whole host of interest groups. I realised I wanted to work on policy in-depth, you see it’s easy when you work in parliament to become a jack of all trades and a master of none, but here I had the opportunity to really get to grips with a subject area and to lobby MPs and Ministers to support our work. Quite simply, I loved it. At the same time my boss was chairing a commission on privacy for his political party, so I had the opportunity to go out of Westminster and talk to experts about issues such as data protection. The area is fast-paced and it became clear very quickly that at that time there was a knowledge gap in Westminster on those issues. I think it is fair to say there are many in Westminster still misinformed on the subject.

When I saw a vacancy at the Internet Advertising Bureau for a role in public affairs last November, I had to apply. I already had some experience with privacy issues which is one of the most important issues being addressed industry at present. Aside from that I lived with a marketing manager, who littered copies of Wired all over the house, so I had a sense that this was an Industry I could really get on in. I wasn’t wrong. The IAB is dynamic, innovative and at the cutting edge of online and mobile. All in all it’s a really exciting place to be.

Some people think of politics and they equate it with stuffiness, men in suits, but public affairs involves being creative too. You have to have a working knowledge of politics, parliamentary processes and really understand your area. You also have to look for opportunities, be creative in how you approach policy and work constructively with a whole host of people. Policy and regulatory affairs has a huge role to play in industry. Advertising industry self regulates, and in the short time I’ve worked at the IAB I’ve helped with our latest initiative on behavioural advertising, which is being rolled out across Europe. The initiative gives more power to people through a consumer facing website www.youronlinechoices.com.

Ultimately, public affairs people like me exist to assist industry to flourish and innovate. We help Industry stay in line with industry regulation and current laws. We also communicate what is happening in Industry to policy makers in the UK and Europe. If you’re interested in public affairs there are many sites to help you your way, I recommend this one and this one.  It’s a fantastic job, and is just one other example where you can get into advertising in the most unlikely way.

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