CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Shrewd choice for the IPA as ex-rebel turns gatekeeper

Remember the launch of Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury in 1987? The brickbats mostly concerned the agency’s age ’problem’, for its founders were all between the tender ages of 30 and 32. ’Managing and marketing directors want heavyweights,’ said the doubters. ’Companies won’t take risks with such a young agency.’

Remember the launch of Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury in 1987? The

brickbats mostly concerned the agency’s age ’problem’, for its founders

were all between the tender ages of 30 and 32. ’Managing and marketing

directors want heavyweights,’ said the doubters. ’Companies won’t take

risks with such a young agency.’



Turning the brickbats into a virtue, Rupert Howell and his partners

described most of the industry as far more conservative and ageist than

an agency aspiring to be truly creative would like. Following

appointments from Thames TV, Shell, Molson and Danepak, he said: ’We

fear we are growing up too quickly, becoming established is too close to

the establishment.’



Reportedly, it actually took a sit-down between Tim Delaney and Steve

Henry, with the former threatening the latter with punishment in

creative awards, to get HHCL to stop irritating the hell out of the

establishment in this way.



So when you read about Rupert Howell being named president-elect of the

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (Campaign, last week), you may

have wondered what on earth was going on. The founding partner of

advertising’s former enfant terrible agency getting the ultimate

establishment accolade? Will the boy Howell turn up in purple silk

shorts to his first IPA Council meeting, shout ’you’ve all been

Tangoed!’ and head off with Lord Tim to a Chime investor relations

meeting in the Square Mile?



Being mischievous, I think John Bartle has been very canny in proposing

as Graham Hinton’s successor a person who seems to break with the IPA’s

golden oldie tradition - Hinton, Powell, Mead etc - while, in fact, if

you get to know him, you soon realise that Howell is a bit of a

mixture.



He’s an MCC tie-wearing pillar of the establishment with all the

traditional strengths of a pushy account manager. He’s also a wise and

determined forward-thinker who is capable of representing agency and

media interests with great seriousness.



Those who genuinely believe that advertising should be about being

fresh, vibrant and challenging will welcome a founder of one of the most

successful home-grown agencies becoming president of the IPA.



Howell will be judged to a great extent by the causes he espouses while

in office. Few have been entirely convinced by the management

consultancy threat to agencies that has been the theme of this

presidential term.



While the debate worked as an illustration of the threat to agencies’

income, many council members were sceptical and unwilling to toe the

line.



Let’s hope Howell’s agenda will include finding ways of ensuring that

agencies are amply rewarded for doing more than just ads, and that he

finds a more robust way to express it.



Have your say in CampaignLive’s Forum on channel 4 at

www.campaignlive.com.



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