AICPA's New Ads - Will the Media Get the Message?

The American Institute of CPAs (ACIPA) has announced the launch of a new advertising campaign to help restore confidence in the profession. New print ads will begin to run on March 10, 2002 in the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers. These ads will emphasize the roles of CPAs away from the headlines, engaged in the daily routine activities of auditing financial statements, providing tax services and delivering business insight. A key message is "We depend on your trust and work to earn it each day, every day."

An upbeat message

The work-a-day image of CPAs will likely provide a startling contrast with the surrounding headlines, if the media continue to report every reform effort and change of auditors or consultants as if they were indictments. Against this backdrop, AICPA's ads will convey a positive image of a large number of professionals with ethics and strong resolve -- people who are "counted on for our integrity, passionate about getting it right, and intolerant of those who break the rules." Below this message will be the CPA logos, followed by the words "the 350,000 men and women of the CPA profession."

This positive imagery builds on recent remarks by Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt. "If you listen carefully to those who address the subject of accounting and accountants," he said, "you will note that some people refer to the accounting profession, while others refer to the accounting industry. This is not accidental, but it is significant." To illustrate the difference, Chairman Pitt quoted Horizons for a Profession: "The most important and significant aspects of a CPA's services to his [or her] clients and to the public cannot be defined as knowledge, nor even as experience, but must be described by more elusive terms: wisdom, perception, imagination, circumspection, judgment, integrity… Without them, a CPA can be nothing more than a technician, regardless of the scope of his [or her] knowledge…"

Will the media get it?

Chairman Pitt summed up his message quite eloquently, saying, "I do not doubt that accounting is, should be, and must be treated as a profession. But that requires its members to act, in all respects, in a manner consonant with professionalism. If not, the public and the profession's critics will rightly consider it an industry." He is right, of course. Actions speak louder than words. But some would say the recent press about accountants has gotten out of control. So a little gentle Madison Avenue-style persuasion couldn't hurt right about now. But will the media get the message?

-Rosemary Schlank

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