The Year 2011 for the AAA


Herb Rotfeld reflects on the year 2011 in academic advertising

 ARC: Connections: ELMAR: Posting  

It Was An Interesting Year

— The President’s column for the December 2011 American Academy of Advertising Newsletter
by Herbert Jack Rotfeld, Auburn University

In the age-old tradition of AAA, members of the executive committee find their official work starts in the months prior to their official term of office. For many events of the past year, they really got underway during the latter half of 2010.

I did not know until Fall of last year that the popular outlet for the work of many advertising scholars since 1978, Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, was facing a crossroads in 2010 as the long-time publisher, CtC Press, announced that it would end operations with the Fall issue. It was always a small company and the owner was retiring. The co-editor of JCIRA since the first issue in 1978, Jim Leigh, was trying to find another company willing to continue the publication. He was not having any success. Shortly after Jim asked me if AAA might be interesting in taking ownership of the journal, one publisher that previously turned him down contacted me saying that they might be interested in publishing the journal if it was owned by an academic association.

As a bit of background, Journal of Advertising began in 1972 as "self-published" by AAA. As was common for association owned journals in the twentieth century, the publication was a benefit provided to AAA members, for the most part funded by organization dues with additional support from contributions made by the editor’s home university. During the 1990’s and early years of this century, the world of academic publishing changed. Even though commercial publishers engaged in journal proliferation by creating new refereed journals, association owned journals remained the high prestige publication outlets, both then and now. This provided an opportunity for many academic associations entering into partnerships with commercial groups that would produce and sell the final product to libraries around the world. This was why AAA entered into two successive five-year contracts with ME Sharpe to publish our flagship journal.

Both the Publications and Executive committees of AAA agreed that we would like to take on ownership of JCIRA, but with some conditions: Jim Leigh had to suspend current review and acceptance activities; our publication committee would select a new editor (Jim and his founding co-editor, Claude Martin, had both already retired as faculty); JCIRA needed a clearly defined editorial position for the journal as distinct from Journal of Advertising; and we would have to find a publisher willing to handle the journal in a way that would generate enough revenue to cover our costs. This was no small task. By the time he had ended his operations, Jim accumulated a backlog of more than a year’s worth of manuscripts, which would allow us needed breathing room so we could start soliciting new papers as soon as we completed all the other aforementioned steps.

Obviously, this could not be done instantly. The first half of this year involved gathering the materials from CtC press to solidify our ownership of the publication. The added wrinkle in the mix was that the Publication Committee already had another big job in front of it such that consideration of JCIRA had to await its completion. With our current contract with ME Sharpe that ends in 2012, if we wanted to terminate that relationship, they had to be notified by the end of 2011. This, in turn, meant that the Publications Committee had to conduct a thorough review of the contract and competitive options. Our best bet for a publisher for our new journal was the one with a solid contract for our main publication, JA. The publications committee had it’s work cut out, resulting in a very busy meeting planned for our Spring conference in Mesa, Arizona.

Ah, the Mesa conference. Some members might not realize it, but that was our first conference without the services of our long-time volunteer director of conference services who had resigned from the position quite suddenly in 2010. We were saved and well served by our over-worked and underpaid Executive Director, Pat Rose, and our new Conference Manager, Betty Djerf. As far as we could tell, most members couldn’t tell the difference. Our membership committee started a new effort at surveys on member reactions to the conference, while buried in a meeting room in Mesa, the Publications Committee spent a very long day with presentations from publishers on proposals for how they would handle JA if they had the contract starting in 2013.

The PC didn’t come out of their conference meetings with a recommendation. There were still more details they wanted to consider. Before they were done, AAA members traveled to Brisbane, Australia for our international conference hosted by Queensland University of Technology. At our opening sessions, we gave out some awards to international members who were unable to attend our Mesa meeting – we are truly an international organization – plus our hosts allowed our president to hand out some additional honors to local students from other competitions. We met advertising educators from around the world, discussed new research ideas, and made new friends. Once we were home, it was back to deciding on the JA publication contract, plus completing more details to acquire ownership issues of JCIRA

In 2006, we had renewed the contract with Sharpe in large part because of our positive relations with their representative, Harry Briggs. If it was just a decision of personal relationships, we would stay with Sharpe forever, or change publishers only if Harry changed employers. Because of his strong service to AAA over the past decade, some members of the association wanted to find some way, any way, that we could renew the contract one more time. As the committee evaluated the different proposals, his defenders strongly argued that we retain Sharpe despite all other factors or proposed service differences the other companies might have offered. I don’t think any other publisher’s representative is a dues paying member of the societies owning the journals in their portfolio, yet Harry is a member of AAA. Everyone knows and appreciates Harry’s attendance at our conferences that, by my memory, predates his work with Sharpe on behalf of JA. He has created strong personal bonds with many of our members. But in the end, the Publications Committee felt that we need to go in a different direction with Routledge, Taylor & Francis starting in 2013.

Once the next publisher for JA was decided, we started discussions with them in what form JCIRA will be published by them, what they will be provide to AAA and its members, and how the journal will be sold to libraries. The AAA members will be told more details on this as they become available, but the important news is that all previously accepted manuscripts will be published (unless withdrawn by authors) starting with volume 33 in 2012.

Eric Haley of University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the former senior associate editor of Journal of Advertising, was selected by the publications committee to serve as interim editor of the relaunched JCIRA. Several years ago, at the 50th anniversary conference of AAA, Eric and I discussed another type of advertising journal that he thought would serve a need for many of our members. Our discussion back then was speculative, though as we faced the acquisition of this new addition to our journal list, I thought the publication idea we discussed could readily fit the title (as well as the original concept) of JCIRA. Remembering that discussion, he was asked to write out a draft editorial mission for the journal that was used as a starting point for discussions for the future directions for JCIRA.

The year 2011 ended on a Saturday.

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