The Power of..Huh?

Recently I received an email from ASAE's president and CEO about a new campaign, The Power of A. It said something about how they were getting ready to roll out this new campaign to highlight "the many ways in which national trade and professional groups assist U.S. employers, legislators, workers and the public at large every day." The email went on to say something about TV spots, a YouTube channel...to be honest I deleted the email and don't remember what else.

When I read it I had two thoughts: the first was "Cool--maybe now people will understand what I mean when I say I work at an association" (because plenty of people don't); the second, after clicking through to preview the new campaign was "Huh?"

I shrugged off the whole thing until a few days ago when I noticed people starting to tweet about the Power of A. Then I read some blog posts about it and was relieved that I don't seem to be the only one who is just plain confused about the whole thing. Chris Bailey asked the exact questions I did: what audience is ASAE trying to target? The general public? Or just fellow association executives?

After getting a better look at the site now that it's launched, I am more confused than ever. At the risk of sounding stupid, I am truly baffled by the whole thing. I mean, the site looks nice and clean. It also looks expensive. Once I read the press release about the campaign, I understood why:
"The Washington, D.C. office of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide was engaged by ASAE & The Center to develop and implement the campaign, whose top priority is to inform decision makers on Capitol Hill, particularly those individuals who comprise the group of newest political gatekeepers to the American public. A blended Ogilvy PR team of creative, public affairs, media and digital strategists will bring ASAE & The Center’s integrated program to life primarily through television and digital media."

Clearly, the answer to the question about what associations are doing to move the country toward economic recovery is: paying top-tier PR firms to create expensive, utterly-useless solutions to non-problems. I mean, come on--the same "conversation" that's supposed to take place on the Power of A site could easily have been had on ASAE's existing site and/or blog. Acronym could have posed the question "How does your association move the country toward economic recovery?" and the same people who are responding on the Power of A site could have submitted posts to Acronym. ASAE could have suggested the #PWRA hashtag and encouraged members to tweet about the whole thing.

Seriously--how many associations are laying off employees? And how many more are having to slash benefits and/or freeze salaries? Is this really the time for ASAE to be showboating the fact that they have retained Ogilvy to produce a bunch of expensive fluff, all so some association execs can swap stories on a fancy website?