IPA moves to form single trade body

The IPA has laid the groundwork for the creation of a single

"supergroup" to become the voice of Britain's entire communications

industry, a move that would put it out of existence in its current

form.



The council of the agency trade body this week gave the green light to

moves which could result in the IPA losing its separate identity after

84 years and acting as the catalyst for an umbrella organisation.



If an agreement can be reached, the body would embrace not only the IPA

but also the Sales Promotion Consultants Association, the Internet

Advertising Bureau, the Public Relations Consultants Association and the

agency section of the Direct Marketing Association.



At the same time, the IPA would give up the lease on its Belgravia

headquarters, a move which could raise up to £4 million to help

fund a new centre near the industry's heartland in Soho or Covent

Garden.



The new building would also be used to showcase the industry's best

work, with exhibition space being made available to organisations such

as the D&AD.



But IPA chiefs are emphasising that plans are at a very early stage.



Bruce Haines, the IPA's president, said: "The council meeting was the

first discussion to examine the strategic options open to us. Among

those options is to initiate talks with other trade organisations to

establish whether there is enough common ground to formalise a working

relationship."



Privately, the IPA acknowledges it is entering a political minefield and

will need to handle matters sensitively if it is not to be accused of

empire building.



One option is to allow each body to retain its identity within the new

organisation as a precursor to an eventual full merger. "It would be

difficult for other bodies to join with us if we were still called the

IPA," Hamish Pringle, the director-general of the IPA, admitted. Other

potential problems could arise over job losses as services are combined

and overheads cut.



Membership fees could also because problems. Last year a proposed merger

between the IPA and the SPCA was aborted because IPA subscriptions are

up to four times higher than the SPCA's.



The driving force behind the proposal is the acknowledgment that the

IPA's name and positioning makes other marketing communications agencies

whose main activities are not "pure" advertising reluctant to apply for

membership.



Meanwhile, there is a growing belief that the number of trade bodies is

creating confusion and dilutes the industry's influence on the

Government and the EU at a time of growing legislative and regulatory

threats.



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