American Institute Of Architects Launches National TV Campaign

Modern White Cliff House

“You're going to start to see a real difference in your practice, whether it's a big or a small practice.” (watch the video here)

This is a quote from the AIA's CEO, Robert Ivy, FAIA.

What is he referring to?

And how does this concern you?

Ivy is refering to a massive advertising campaign by the American Institute of Architects here in the US involving digital ads, television ads, and print advertising.

The purpose is simple: to make a compelling, unmistakable case for the VALUE of working with YOU, an architect.

He came on Business of Architecture to tell us about it.

There was a firestorm of comments, mostly skeptical (read them here).

Ivy says this first ad is just the beginning of a 3-year campaign, and I'd like to share YOUR feedback with him (this is why I'm writing you).

I'm speaking with him tomorrow morning (Fri) at 10:30am EST to record an episode of the Business of Architecture Show.

What do YOU want the AIA's campaign to do for you (be specific)? And how?

Here is the first ad, what do you think?

[leadplayer_vid id=”548FCC9BC2829″]

Leave your response here so we can have a dialog and hear your thoughts.

Also, please spread the message through Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media. Use the social media icons at the bottom of this article.



Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.

29 Responses

  1. Have you ever lived in a house designed by an architect. I mean a real architect not just a designer. Those who have live a richer life in an architect’s design’ soon understand that form and function are relevant. They soon understand that the view from the window and the feeling of containment in the house are important aspects of everyday living. They enjoy walking from room to room and the expectation and the satisfaction of arriving. They enjoy driving or walking up to the house, or even leaving or meandering past the landscape architecture. Maybe its simplicity maybe its perfect proportions. There is more to architectural design than a line on a plan.

  2. What I’ve seen of the AIA ad campaign shows architecture as contemplative, aspirational, and pretty quiet. There’s a lot of scenery and moted sunlight in the manner of an upmarket sympathy card. Listening to and cooperating with people outside the studio are activities that are mentioned, but not actually depicted. A featureless white cardboard cutout of a human figure standing on the balcony of a cardboard model evidently represents the lonely client.

    This is not the architecture I know. My architect friends are much more likely to be hammering out an agreement with a half-rabid citizens’ group than chewing on a pencil while gazing at the crown molding. Often lacking the budget for advertising, they’re out somewhere giving a talk at a facility managers’ convention, or ploughing through real estate records so that when they pitch their services, their prospective clients will be astonished to realize that these architects know more about their property and their company than they themselves do. They volunteer for planning charrettes, mentor high school students, get published in both Architizer and the neighborhood weekly. This is what is making our modern architecture really modern—not how it looks, but that more American architects are creatively, democratically engaging with their communities.

    I believe Bob Ivy, as capable a person as has ever communicated about our profession, gets this, and will do more than what we’ve seen. The true stories about architects, clients, and communities are too good (and too cost-effective as media) to pass up.

    1. We can learn from other professions that have already successfully done the marketing work: like the Oscar, or the Emmy. Currently we only have very few awards and the public does not even know about them. We need architectural awards in many categories, and also make sure the general public in interested in the awards. Once we have these awards, we can get millions of dollar-worth exposure in all media like TV and newspaper and internets, and we can fine tune the awards to promote the categories of architectural design we want to promote.

      Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C (

      Check out FREE tips and info at Here you can post your questions or vignettes for other users to review and respond.

  3. Ivy said the firm in Seattle wasn’t a large one… I believe the firm shown is Olson Kundig, which is over 100 people.

  4. Why not start from the ground upwards. Start with the education of the future. The NEW LOOK OF ARCHITECTURE

    My Suggestion for architectural student education in the future

    Senior Matriculation Grade 12 Minimum starting requirement
    Every country and every province would have similar courses. As standardization became the norm for education It would allow students to transfer between universities.
    Level 1 at University or College 3 ½ Months Semester
    Arhitectural Autocad 1, Architectural Drafting 1 (including pencil drawing), Architectural Sculpture and Art 1, Interior Design 1, Urban Design 1, Contracts and Law 1, Forensic Architecture 1, Building Inspection 1, Naval Architecture 1, History of Art 1, Architectural Design 1, Industrial Design 1, Building Codes and Zoning Codes 1, Internet Technology Architect 1, Architecture Technology 1, Interior Materials 1, Building Envelope Exterior Materials 1, Architectural Sociology 1, Architectural Administration and Management 1, Architectural Accounting 1, Architectural Toastmastering and Speaking 1, Architectural Journalism 1, Architectural Cost Estimating 1, Architectural Building Maintenance 1, Landscape Architecture 1, Architectural Developer 1. …………..
    This is approachable for 3 ½ months and would all be available with no prerequisites at the level 1.
    The above would all have a Level 2. This level 2 could only be approached after taking 3 ½ months of Level Level 1. For example if one wanted to be a general practitioner in architecture it may take them 10 ½ months to complete the level 1 requirements. If one knew they wanted to specialize maybe some of the Level 1 courses may not be required.

    After Level 2 then the student would work for practical application learning in a Coop Office of a BASIC ARCHITECT for 3 ½ months.
    Absolutely no buildings to be Designed and Overseen and Permit Issued unless designed by a Bachelor of Architecture degree is issued and this architect is registered with the Federal and Provincial Institute. This Bachelor of Architecture degree would make the architect a Basic Architect.
    Once the student has completed 3 ½ months in a Coop Basic Architects office (this would be called Level 3) they would receive level 3 status of courses that the coop architect specialized in. Student would be paid a fee that would be enough to pay for next 3 ½ months semester at university.
    For example someone pursuing Basic Architect would have to complete all of Level 1 courses and many of level 2 courses which would be the more in depth learning of the level 1 courses.
    If a student were pursuing Interior Design they would not need to have all of the Level 1 Courses such as Urban Design 1, Naval Architecture 1, Internet Architecture 1, Building Envelope Exterior Materials 1, and Landscape Architecture 1. Interior Design Student would do practical Application in a Basic Interior Design office. (Basic Interior Design would allow interior design of projects up to 10,000 sq. ft.)
    If a student was pursuing Landscape Architecture they may not be required to take Interior Design 1, Naval Architecture 1, History of Art 1, Internet Technology Architect 1, Architectural Journalism 1. This student would do Practical application with a Basic Landscape Architect. The Level 2 courses would be more suited to Landscape Architecture. Like Horticulture 1, Heavy Equipment 1, and Landscaping Roads 1.

    If the student ‘s goal was an I T Architect, their courses would be more in line with design and Computer based learning. They would have to get their practical experience under a Basic I T Architect. Only a Basic I T Architect could use the name of IT Architect.
    If the student were pursuing Architectural Developer their next courses would be Real Estate 1, Selling 1, and Land Acquisition 1.
    Once The Basic Architect arrived at the first Bachelor of Architecture Degree and wished to pursue larger building design they would work towards a Master of Architecture degree Level 5 and become a Master Architect. They would be registered with the Provincial and Federal Architectural Institute. Allowing them to design and Seal any size building.
    Similarly Master Interior designer 5, Master Landscape Architect 5, Master Naval Architect 5. There would be level 5 of Master of Contract Law, Master of urban Planning 5, Master of Architectural Building Inspection 5, Master of Architectural Technology 5, Master of Interior Materials 5, etc. All must belong to the provincial and federal institute, and be Registered.
    Doctorates (Doctor of Architecture) would teach at University. They would also specialize in certain complicated buildings such as Nuclear facilities, Hospitals, and Air ports.
    Bachelor of Architecture would take an average 2 ½ years. Master of Architecture would take an average another 2 ½ years. Doctor of architecture would take an average 1 ½ year of University courses.
    Throughout this training process the student could transfer to a trades course that would be fully accepting of credits gained in Level 1, or Level 2 courses.

  5. It appears, at least looking at the first ad, that the AIA and their ad agency is looking to the IBM’s and Proctor and Gambles as their target market. They do not need to be sold on using an architect for their projects. That is automatic.

    The target should be the mid-level and lower employees who watch HGTV and think “all I have to do is call an interior designer and they will design my dream home, addition, or remodeling project. Why would I call an architect?”

  6. My wife and I were watching TV and the ad came on. Before it got to the end, I asked what she thought the ad was selling.

    She thought eyeglasses.

    You can’t ask architects if it is a good ad. And you certainly can’t ask the agency that made the ad, they think it is great.

    But the general public has know idea what you are selling.

  7. I am surprised to see so many negative comments on the Video ad.

    The ad achieves two most important goals: let people think about architect, and also remember the website

    It is a first ad to the public about architect, and on the right media, TV or video, which people will actually watch.

    TV and Video campaign is another profession. They are experts in what they do, and they did make an impression in this very short TV or video ad.

    Why should they listen to architects who have ZERO experience in doing video or TV ad? Most of the negative were focused on the little details that a specific architect is doing in his/her small niche, which miss the mark by a mile. This first ad is on architect and architecture in general, and achieves a lasting impression already, and started a great conversation

    If anything, the ad can be improved by do a survey of the general public on their feedbacks on the ad, the intended audience of the ad.

    Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C (

    1. I have read the comments and have to agree with what appears the majority of the responses.

      Who is the target market? Who are we trying to sell?

      The architect’s that need to be recognized as providing a valuable service to their communities are the small firms. They/we are the one’s who cannot afford a marketing budget to get the word out. The AIA has an opportunity to really help, but if I was one of the clients I need to reach, this ad doesn’t nothing to help me sell my services.

      Down here in the trenches it is all about small businesses needing to know there are valuable services that I can perform to help them achieve their project.

  8. The issues most in need of attention – and where the majority of architects can have the most positive impact – are at the street level in our cities and towns. The metaphorically ‘looking up’ message and the associated images of tall buildings and country estates misses the mark by a mile. The real fight for ‘do you need an architect’ is on the street, and the target audience is small business owners, local developers and community organizations, not multi-national developers and the 1% who already would not be caught dead without a good architect. Next!

  9. Yep. Target market is all wrong. Touchy feeley BS. Reinforces the stereotypes. And I agree, listening to clients that know, as they talk about the absolute requirement for a pro architect is a no-brainer for most projects. In the grand scheme within the dollars required to build things, the architect fee is a pittance.

    Plus, it is a tad too politically correct for me, showing a young female as the architect persona. Is this really what buying customers expect to see? Or is this what we as a profession want to encourage within our own ranks? Two totally different concepts. This misstep is an icon for what is wrong with the ad. Self-indulgence.

    So how did our guy Ivy go astray? He is listening to TV ad guys and in-house architects with agendas. He should be listening to web Ad guys and seasoned business development architects. Way too much air in the piece and zero content. This “brand message” could be said in less than 15 seconds. Professional and contemporary in appearance yes, but totally non-responsive to the need. Like many “edgy” buildings I see, unfortunately.

  10. i was truly looking forward to this new campaign but am terribly disappointed in the dfirst segment. I believe it simply reinforces the stereotype of the self centered architect who is designing to his own agenda not his clients.

    Why are we not showcasing comments from real clients who have witnessed the value we bring to their real projects. Can’t we enumerate the many value added things we bring to projects?

    Let’t tell the world what we are trained to do, how we approach solving program issues with efficient design; how our solutions cn save money and make the resulting project a more effective tool for the client to realize his goals and dreams. Good design solutions draw better faculty and students to universities; they draw more patients to healthcare facilities; they attract better staff to corporations. Well executed solutions can be more efficient in energy consumption, they are less intrusive to their context.

    I think the first ad misses the point by a mile and will not resonate to the people we really want to reach.

    I hope for much more in the next installment.

  11. Enoch,
    I was extremely disappointed or more exactly put off by this ad. I could not watch it to the end. The style of the rap music has no place here. To whom is this ad directed? I found it disrespectful to the function of architects. It seems obvious that the marketers were not familiar with the process of designing for a client. I agree with other comments that addressing what an architect can do for a client, what the advantages are for them, the client, is what is needed. This ad does nothing in that way. A number of response comments put it very well when they outlined the services and advantages of using an architect.
    There are so many that a prospective client is not aware of. That is what needs to be put out there for all to see. This ad portrays the architect as an way out hip character that is all about expressing him self. There is so much that a thoughtful architect can bring to a prospective client one does not need to hipe it up .
    You ask what I would like to see happen.
    examples of the advantages of working with an architect.
    explanation of how the architect interacts with the client.
    description of the duties beyond designing
    These and more are all mentioned in your own Marketing for Architects program

    What would I do if in charge

    Show client and architect interchanges.
    Real people not actors
    This has already been mentioned in other comments.
    It seems simple to me. What are clients hesitant or fearful of.. address that with interviews
    This is a very serious topic for prospective clients. They are not interested in the abstract artistic thought process that the architect uses. They want clarity as to what is in it for them.
    Why should they spend money on an architect

    1. Also, I was pretty alarmed when I heard Robert Ivy say in Enoch’s podcast that…”you might even have a neighbor say to you, ‘didn’t I see something about that in an ad recently?\'” That’s pretty clear that Ivy doesn’t understand marketing and the agency that he worked with only knows how to create an ad that does one thing…

  12. The AIA is a club for architects. Like most clubs the people who have the time to get involved set the agenda. In the case of the AIA, that means the agenda is set by big firm architects who can afford the time and money to send their members to D.C. to attend club meetings. The 93% of us that work in firms of less than 20 people are not heard because we can’t afford to spend time at the club in D.C. The AIA doesn’t represent 93% of architects, perhaps 93% of their members (if membership parallels census data). It stands to reason that most architects won’t benefit from the ad campaign.

    I agree with everything that has been said here. In particular, I think Eric Reinholdt has the right idea about what the AIA should be doing. I quit the club seven years ago when I did a cost/benefit on membership. In my case membership was costing $2,000 / year and the benefit was $700. The AIA does positive things. It is just that you should get a lot more for the $20,000,000 in dues.

  13. It is a great first step forward. There is certainly room to improve, but at least Robert Ivy got it started. We need to have great ad to promote architectural services, like the “got milk” ad.

  14. I actually listened to the podcast or as much as I could with Robert Ivy…

    And, its pretty evident that some ad agency got their hooks into him because the AIA said…”we need to do something to address our members feeling we aren’t offering value to them.” Then they flew off with this half cocked “campaign.”

    The simple fact is that you are selling a professional service and you don’t sell that like you sell a fridge or dishwasher or a microwave.

    I am even more skeptical of this after hearing Robert Ivy explain it.

  15. It is hard to figure out what the ad is all about. It does not speak to any of my clients or to me. It seems to me this ad was put together by people who have no idea about what Architects do or how we operate or how we relate to the public or to our clients. To me it will continue to foster the idea that we a bunch of cooks with no practical ideas.

    Murray K. Barnard, A.I.A.

  16. I’d have to agree with Dave’s comments above. Watching the first ad, it wasn’t at all clear who the intended audience was but it certainly didn’t seem to be my prospective clients. I also couldn’t help but think that the ad reinforced the stereotype of architects as dreamers who talk in circles. And what was the call to action? Was there one? Why is that woman staring at me at the end of the ad?

    I’d be curious to know how they developed that ad. Did they talk to architectural clients? Did they talk to people who were considering hiring an architect? Did they talk to people who were considering NOT hiring an architect? Did they talk to architects? Did they focus test the ad during the development process?

    It seems to me that most clients are looking for expertise, value, and imagination – in that order. It seems like that should be the general message. That’s certainly the way that I sell my services.

    1. Sorry, I should have said Dave’s comments below. I didn’t realize that the comments were in reverse chronological order.

  17. As the other person posted the language of the ad should be the language of prospective clients. Clients listen to other people who have had successful experiences with architects And can enumerate the value added by their experience with architects, especially in the case of homeowners.
    In the case of look up, the speaker should be a commercial client who can comment on his successful experience with architects and the value that they bring to the project. People live listen to references from other people they identify with and who speak their language and vocabulary. All the look up commentary is nice and wonderful but not going to connect with people. The connection is made by someone who is has experienced the value of an architect and who faces the same problems that the speaker is addressing. Think about brain surgery, would you choose a surgeon who spoke to you in lofty medical vocabulary aspirations or one who your friend recommended after having successful brain surgery himself with positive results that he was thrilled with and for a reasonable cost.
    Is architecture brain surgery or is the experience of a happy client who lists the reasons he is happy with his architect in client, not architect, words.
    Once the connection is made with the client for solid client speak reasons, then it is appropriate to talk about higher design and art aspirations, not before.

  18. Hi Enoch-

    This is actually a pretty interesting topic…and as a professional marketer, I don’t think this ad campaign is going to work and I say that pretty simply because from the initial ad, it doesn’t seem to be targeted properly.

    The first ad is more of a persuasion piece that would be effective in persuading students and young people to look into architecture as a passion and a career, but from reading the above comments and being in professional services, it isn’t likely to sway anyone in a buying position to change from using the contractor’s designs and thinking to using the thinking of an architect.

    I’ll be interested to hear what comes of the conversation, but this looks like a fairly common mistake that organizations make because most of these ad firms have been trained to make persuasion advertising that is focused on the Business-to-Consumer market and can’t/won’t/don’t make the leap to needing to speak in an entirely different language to the Business-to-Business market or in the context of selling professional services.

  19. Enoch,
    I’d love to know the metrics by which the AIA will judge the success of their new campaign. He’s promising that we’ll “see a real difference,” but really what does that mean? How will they shift their awareness strategy if there is no quantifiable difference?

    I also wonder why they chose TV as the medium to deliver their message. Does anyone actually consume television advertising anymore? I haven’t watched a TV ad in years thanks to DVR.

    If it were my problem to solve, I would connect with architects who are doing their own ad campaigns (with significantly less capital investment) on social media, on YouTube, on Facebook, or Udemy, or Linda and I would highlight them. Bring focus to the individuals and firms who are getting things built, working with clients, and experimenting. Less polish (general) and more practical (specifics) in my opinion will have a better chance of resonating with more people – a grassroots rather than corporate approach. I’d especially like to see them focus on small firm architects and their practices.

    Thanks for asking the tough questions Enoch!

  20. Those are big words from Robert Ivy! It’s a real challenge to get clients to understand what we do, why we do it, and for how much we do it. Can’t wait for things to change. Contractors always had the upper hand and are renumerated so much more for their efforts. It robs our integrity, prestige, and place as shapers of our society. That is why I made the switch to design-build as a company. Many architects live a life of quiet desperation. Just can’t wait for a change in the right direction. We deserve it. I am anxious to see the difference because it’s been a long time coming. Thanks Robert Ivy and the AIA. It’s like music to my ears. I think the wax build-up is waning from inside. 🙂

  21. Enoch:

    I’ll reserve judgement until I see the ads. Most advertising in our industry is of dubious value unless it is very well conceived and precisely targeted. Maybe that might happen, but probably it won’t. The AIA, in my experience, has a very difficult time representing the very diverse needs of its membership. We’ll see…..

    Like many large organizations representing a single industry, the one size fits all approach does not cut it. If You are seeking design awards or some kind of personal recognition, the AIA is fine. Beyond that, I’m not very impressed with its business value.

  22. What do you think about the AIA’s campaign so far? What do you want to see happen? What would you do if you were in charge?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

708,256 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments


How To Double Your Architecture Firm Income In The Next 12 Months

Fill out the form below to get free, instant access:

Related Articles