Close Up: All change at the IPA

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 15 April 2011 12:00AM

As Paul Bainsfair prepares to step into Hamish Pringle's shoes as the IPA's director-general, John Tylee offers a view of how his approach is likely to be different to that of his predecessor.

Paul Bainsfair, the IPA's director-general-elect, may have a bit to learn about running an industry body. But it's a safe bet that there'll be no shortage of those wanting to teach him.

The IPA should keep up its relentless recruitment drive, some say. Nonsense, others argue and claim that agencies are not best represented by "catch-all" bodies and that a "turf war" will ensue if the IPA doesn't back off.

Also, what should the IPA be doing about the attacks on alcohol and snack-food advertising? Does it need to be shouting more loudly itself or swing its weight completely behind the Advertising Association? And how does it continue providing added value for its 246 member agencies at a time when they're scrutinising the cost of their membership more closely than ever?

Indeed, there's a delicious irony in the fact that the most outspoken critic of the IPA's income-based membership-fee system - which he calls "deeply flawed" - has been Ian Millner, the boss of Iris, where Bainsfair has been the worldwide chairman.

"The best advice I can give Bainsfair on his arrival at the IPA is that he takes a deep breath, does nothing hasty but just listens and learns how the place works and gets to understand its politics," a former senior IPA executive says.

This may prove wise counsel for Bainsfair, who becomes only the seventh director-general since 1927 at the IPA, where Karmarama's Nicola Mendelsohn has just been elected the first woman president in its 94-year history.

Nevertheless, those who were charged with finding Hamish Pringle's successor are adamant that, in Bainsfair, whose industry experience spans more than three decades, they've not simply opted for more of the same.

Not that Bainsfair and Pringle don't have things in common. Both have had their names on agency doors and both were well-known and respected industry figures before the IPA recruited them.

The difference is that while Pringle was a one-time IPA council member and its consultant director of marketing strategy, Bainsfair's involvement with the organisation has been minimal and he's never sat on the IPA council.

However, Stephen Woodford, the DDB UK chief executive, a former IPA president and a member of the selection panel, says Bainsfair's previous "arm's length" relationship with the IPA is more than counterbalanced by the high-profile agency and network jobs he's held, as well as having launched his own agency.

"He brings a lot of commercial nous to the job," Woodford adds. "That's not to say Hamish hasn't done the same, only that Paul will bring a new perspective to what the IPA does."

David Pattison, another ex-president and selection panel member, agrees. "Hamish has done an outstanding job but he and Paul are completely different personalities," he says. "Paul both speaks and listens well and he's a great team player."

Certainly, there's a belief within the IPA hierarchy that they've pulled off a coup in signing a heavy-hitter such as Bainsfair who, had things turned out differently, might have been TBWA's global boss by now.

David Wethey, the chairman of Agency Assessments International, says: "I was worried the IPA had decided that this was a time for experience and would make its selection accordingly. In Paul, it has somebody with all the experience but who is the complete reverse of the old conservative adman."

But this does beg the question of why Bainsfair should move to a trade association from a network job - notwithstanding the fact that Iris has had a torrid year that saw office closures and redundancies. It surely can't be for the money.

Bainsfair, who was sounded out about the IPA job by the headhunter Grace Blue late last summer, says: "I'd no intention of jumping ship. But the more I thought about the job, the more surprised I was by my reaction."

He explains: "I'd already done almost every job you could do in advertising and I suppose I was attracted to something that would put my accumulated experience to good use and where I could put something back. The IPA is a Rolls-Royce that's even more impressive when you look under its bonnet."

Will it be easy to make the jump? "Yes and no," an IPA source answers. "The way in which we're structured and the way we recruit means that we have all the characteristics of an agency. But we also have a lot of clients - namely our members - whose respect and trust has to be won before new ideas can be pushed through."

As for Bainsfair's challenges, most agree that ensuring agencies are armed with all the information and training they need to cope with the changes in the media landscape that digital is accelerating will be crucial. He also cites dealing with the data explosion and establishing fairer systems of agency remuneration as a high priority.

Closer to home, he'll need to establish a rapport with Janet Hull, the IPA's director of marketing and reputation management, who Bainsfair pipped to the post. Hull, who is described as "the power behind the throne" at Belgrave Square, is credited with making presidential agendas happen.

"A lot of effort will be going into making her not feel disappointed," an IPA insider says. "It's very important that she feels wanted and needed."

Significantly, Bainsfair emphasises the importance of building good relationships with other industry bodies and trade associations. Some insiders suggest that this may be no bad thing, claiming that the IPA's attempts at empire-building in recent years haven't gone down too well with other organisations.

"In the days of 15 per cent commission, the IPA just represented full-service agencies and nobody else," a senior figure at another marketing trade association points out. "It didn't have a very inclusive view of the world so other organisations emerged to represent areas such as direct marketing and sales promotion.

"Now the IPA has reinvented itself as a marketing organisation claiming it can look after these constituencies. The problem is that 'one-stop shopping' isn't trendy any more and specialist agencies may gravitate to trade bodies they feel have more expertise in their field than the IPA."

If Bainsfair is daunted by all this, he doesn't show it. "I'll be approaching the job with my usual good humour and confidence," he says, tongue firmly in cheek. "I just hope I'm equal to the task."

THE BAINSFAIR FILE

Age: 58

Lives: Holland Park, London, and Wiltshire

Family: Wife Sophie, children Bruno, Ted and Phoebe

Born: London

Educated: Watford Technical High School, Watford College

1975: Trainee at JWT

1976: Joins Saatchi & Saatchi as account executive, rising to account director and group account director

1987: Named as one of Campaign's Faces to Watch. Appointed managing director

1990: Quits to set up Bainsfair Sharkey Trott with the former Saatchis executive John Sharkey and the creative Dave Trott. Agency backed by a stake from BDDP

1993: Trott quits BST acrimoniously, saying: "I've been done up like a kipper." Bainsfair later admits: "It wasn't a marriage made in heaven"

1995: Agency renamed BST-BDDP

1996: GGT acquires a share in BST-BDDP after buying the BDDP network

1999: Omnicom acquires GGT. Bainsfair becomes the chairman of the Omnicom-owned TBWA\London

2004: Named president of TBWA\Europe

2005: Forced to restructure London agency after Trevor Beattie, Andrew McGuinness and Bil Bungay quit to launch start-up. Tipped to succeed Jean-Marie Dru as TBWA\Worldwide boss

2007: Quits TBWA after senior management reshuffle. Announces plans to start a digital venture with Sharkey

2008: Appointed the non-executive chairman of Lean Mean Fighting Machine

2009: Named the European chief executive of Iris

2011: Appointed IPA director-general

WELCOMING MENDELSOHN'S PEOPLE AND SKILLS FOCUS

Last week, Nicola Mendelsohn made her inaugural speech as the IPA president, in which she outlined the goals she has set herself for her two-year tenure. These included transforming the body into "an innovation hub as well as an institute", and forming new partnerships with industry-leading companies. Here, some of the IPA members present give their reactions to her agenda.

RUSS LIDSTONE, chief executive, Euro RSCG London

I think Nicola is good news. She has a tough act to follow in the shape of the inimitable Rory Sutherland, but I think she did a great job of setting her own agenda but also being true to herself in a "stateswoman-like" way.

In an industry that requires vision but that suffers from hyperbole, my adage of "watch what they say, not what they do" is not a bad one. And perhaps the most impressive thing about her speech last Wednesday was that Nicola has started the "doing" already - hitting the ground running with a number of announcements, including alliances with PACT, UKIE, Google and "Silicon Valley".

Her plea to stop reflecting on the past and embrace the future by focusing on skills, talent and connections is a simple agenda and exactly what we need from the IPA right now.

To inject pride and purpose back into our industry at such a challenging yet exciting time is clearly a big part of her role. And building from where Rory left off, I think she'll break down a few walls in order to do exactly that.

CHARLES VALLANCE, founder, VCCP

Once it was goods. Then it was service. Now we talk of the experience economy. But if we do, we're already in danger of falling one step behind. Because, these days, the big winners don't simply provide experiences. They transform them. And in so doing, they transform the value exchange.

This new era of transformation poses considerable challenges to industry, government and institutions alike. We see all sorts of contortions as a result. Nicola is absolutely right, though, in spotting it as an opportunity for the IPA and the advertising industry in general.

But it could still be a lot of hot air wafting out of stewed coffee-fuelled committee rooms. What makes me think it is more than this is Nicola's commitment to adopt an agenda of shared learning, to develop new relationships with those industries and technology brands that might formally have been seen as trying to eat our lunch.

As Charles Leadbeater explains in We Think, assets are increasingly about relationships: "In the past, you were what you owned. Now you are what you share." That's why the strategic partnerships Nicola has forged with the likes of Google and Facebook will prove key to delivering the innovation agenda she outlines. It's time for the industry, and the IPA, to practise the collaboration it is so apt to preach.

But, as she forges new alliances, flitting from one Richard Caring table to another, I have one small piece of advice. Make sure our new friends pick up their share of the lunch bills.

JASON GOODMAN, founder, Albion

Nicola's inaugural president's speech was right on many levels. It was right because it was a simple, practical strategy intended to modernise the IPA. It was right because it was delivered by a great role model for the industry (how many talented woman get to the top of our industry? why has it taken this long to appoint one of them to IPA president?). It was right because it didn't sound just like talk. In a few months in the job, she's already done four new IPA partnerships and collaborations - all focused around mashing up the IPA's core strengths of attracting talent, training and effectiveness with her modernising "digital" agenda. The deal with Google demonstrates Nicola's savvy. She's persuaded them to provide funding to invest in a Hyper Island programme that will help attract the next breed of brilliant grads. And, finally, I liked it a lot for a couple of selfish reasons. Because Nicola's mum and dad were in the audience (I've got to try this one day) and because she's persuaded Google to fly me and the rest of the council out to Silicon Valley. Genius. Someone is bound to write a show about this.

PHILIPPA BROWN, CEO, Omnicom Media Group UK

The IPA of 2011 represents an incredible diverse set of companies with a huge array of skills, experience and business models. Delivering substantive change for this broad church in just two years is a challenging task, made even more daunting by following Rory's formidable legacy.

From Nicola's first speech, her strategy has been well defined, sensible and, importantly, inclusive. What is most pleasing is that Nicola is not just talking about the future but has begun to implement change.

From new partnerships with Google, Facebook and the BBC to working with PACT and UKIE, Nicola has already begun to increase collaboration. Advertising's share of GDP has steadily reduced from its heights at the turn of the century, and with the digital sector accounting for nearly £1 in every £10 spent in the UK economy, it is vital for our sector to extend its reach into new areas.

Tough economic times always put tremendous pressure on training budgets and Nicola's priority on people and skills is welcomed. Increasing the available talent pool is crucial and, when looking at training, I would stress the need for a reinvigoration of the traditional skills as well as the new tools of the trade.

I am left with a good impression, filled with anticipation and confidence for the future. I am positive that Nicola's "innovation hub" will deliver for the ad community, which will be an even more diverse and complex place in 2013.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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