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The AAF’s Helen Lin on Bringing the Industry Together to Create Change



The American Advertising Federation’s vice chair chats to LBB’s Laura Swinton about attracting diverse talent to the industry, the lingering challenges of the pandemic and the importance of cross-industry collaboration

The AAF’s Helen Lin on Bringing the Industry Together to Create Change
This summer Helen Lin was named vice chair of the American Advertising Federation (AAF), having come onboard as a director back in 2021. Since then, the AAF, which describes itself as ‘a unique, nationally coordinated grassroots network of brands, agencies, media companies, local advertising clubs and college chapters’ has had a pretty packed few months. In August, the AAF announced its 30th anniversary class of inductees into the AAF Advertising Hall of Achievement. Earlier this month, the association also announced the winners of this year's Mosaic Awards, celebrating diversity and inclusion (you can check out the full list of winners here).

Outside of her work with the AAF, Helen is chief digital officer for Publicis Groupe and she’s garnered a host of accolades throughout her career. In 2019 she was named one of Campaign US’s Female Frontiers honorees and was also celebrated as one of ADCOLOR’s Legends. She has a keen focus on brand safety and privacy, has been a driver of innovation and a passionate champion of diversity and inclusion.

LBB> What was it that first motivated you to take this role with the AAF?

Helen>  I was drawn to the AAF given its unique position bringing together agencies, marketers, the content media marketplace and the trade press, creating a forum where members shed their roles, but bring their resources to collaborate on important topics in advertising, sans silos. The mutual ambition of co-creating a curriculum that draws new talent into advertising and upskills existing members across our industry was what I set my sights on as Digital Chair.

LBB> The AAF brings together members across brands, media platforms and agencies - and across different product/service sectors. Given this varied group, what would you say are the issues or areas of concern that are touching all of your members?

Helen>  Everyone in our industry is grappling with finding and attracting diverse talent at all levels. This is compounded by waning interest in careers in advertising and ongoing competition with tech companies and start-ups for people. Aside from bringing talent in, it’s also about keeping people and helping them chart their path through training, upskilling and mapping the right opportunities for their growth.

LBB> Since taking up your role what has been the most challenging thing you’ve worked on?

Helen>  The pandemic still continues to impact the way we meet and interact, so training and connecting with fellow members has been challenging. Industry organizations really thrive when their members can come together to focus, ideate and create change and sometimes that is best when we’re all together in a room so that’s been really hard. I was Digital Chair for the AAF prior to this role as Vice Chair, and had collaborated with our amazing, generous members on a digital curriculum that we hope is insightful and enriching not only for existing members, but will hopefully be great for drawing people into the exciting, influential world of advertising. I’m looking forward to supporting incoming AAF Digital Chair, Sheila Marmon, in fully launching this program. 

LBB> And the most satisfying?

Helen>  I love being a part of the AAF because it brings together a powerful community of passionate corporate members across all corners of our industry - agencies, brands, platforms and media partners and the trade press - local and national - to work on issues together. Members are individuals who are committed to creating change in our industry, not only for today, but for those that come after us. The importance of service is a core characteristic that binds us. 

LBB> Data and privacy are two sides of the same coin, to an extent, but there are big changes afoot, from the removal of cookies to the conversation around national or state-level privacy standards. 

Helen> The whole ecosystem will benefit when we help brands conceive sustainable valuable exchange for earning consumer opt-in consent. That is what will be durable and invaluable no matter what regulatory changes come our way. I feel strongly that while critical, a disproportionate weight of planning is around the technical infrastructure for our industry vs the actual discussion and value exchange for consumers. We need both.  

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 28 Sep 2022 16:05:10 GMT