Karen Yates wonders how much can be achieved by ISBA and the IPA
It’s an old joke in advertising: if the Incorporated Society of British
Advertisers and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising ever put
their arms around each other, they’d spend the time finding a good place
to stick the knife.
But times are changing. Rapprochement has been in the air for some time
now, and the first major fruit of this is set to be unveiled next week.
At a joint conference, the IPA and ISBA will spell out a set of
guidelines hatched between them on the best way to conduct pitches
(Campaign, last week).
It had been widely predicted that peace would break out between the two.
The combative and forthright Ken Miles retired in January, ending 15
fiery years as director general of ISBA. His reign made good news copy,
but was peppered with too many fights with the rest of the industry to
ease the relationship between clients and agencies. Or, as one
exasperated IPA man put it: ‘Ken Miles would say so much controversial
stuff in a single speech that it took hordes of people three years to
repair the damage.’
However, ten short months later, his replacement, John Hooper, is
already hobnobbing with ‘the other side’ in a way that would have been
unthinkable under the old regime. He and Nick Phillips, director general
of the IPA, get on like a house on fire compared with the frosty
politesse of the Miles era. And the result is entente cordiale on a
However, those waiting for a bumper peace dividend may well be
disappointed. True, there is tremendous optimism about what a closer-
knit industry can achieve: ‘higher quality and standards’, ISBA says;
‘greater trust between agencies and clients’, the IPA says; ‘less
waste’, marketing men say. But ask what the specific benefits will be
and talk becomes somewhat sketchier.
The bottom line seems to be that issues that have divided the industry -
remuneration, longer contracts, media bills - won’t suddenly be swept
away. Rather, life will get better because it will be easier to address
John Bartle, joint chief executive of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and president
of the IPA, sees a new era of problem solving through ‘private huddles’
instead of the ‘public confrontation’ of earlier years. This, he feels,
will open more opportunities for joint initiatives, especially on staff
‘There should be more co-operation on things like training,’ he says,
‘not only the sharing of training schemes and more swapping of lecturers
from one side of the fence to the other, but also in the smaller things.
For example, the IPA is beginning a dialogue with academics; why
shouldn’t ISBA form part of that too?’ he asks.
Phillips sees the calmer waters between the IPA and ISBA as an
opportunity to take the industry forward, for example, into Europe. They
can also follow existing joint initiatives through in greater detail.
Joint research into creative services, for example, which was conducted
in 1993 and now needs updating.
He says: ‘The pay-off is that you get rid of the waste of time and
energy on niggles and upsets, and this will enable clients and agencies
to get on with the job that matters.’
But clearly what matters to most of the people approached by Campaign is
to raise the standing and image of the industry.
The director general of the Advertising Association, Andrew Brown, is
particularly keen to use the new-found peace to promote advertising as a
key discipline in British industry. Michael Hockney, former managing
director of the Butterfield Day Devito Hockney group and leading light
in the IPA has a similar wish, and looks forward to a real push to raise
the standing of marketing as a whole.
Research is another area which Brown says could benefit from the the new
era, while the new unity will also make it easier to fight off threats
from outside, such as tight-er European Union legislation.
Hooper himself was in Australia when Campaign went to press. But his
desire for a more co-operative industry is well documented, and echoed
by his director of membership services, Deborah Morrison.
She comments: ‘It is all about working together. If you can’t do that,
what basis have you got for your business?’
Morrison is a key architect of next week’s conference at the Marriott
Hotel in London, where, for the first time, such contentious issues as
remuneration will be examined in one session by both the client and the
For example, Ambrose McGinn, marketing director of Abbey National, will
talk about the fee structure he has thrashed out with Barker and
Ralston. Derek Ralston will also stand up and talk about how it works
for him as managing director of the agency. Similarly, John Mayhead,
marketing director of Argos, will discuss commissions next to Peter
Walker, the financial director of Argos’s agency, Ogilvy and Mather.
However, it is Keith Holloway, the commercial director of GrandMet and
the vice-president of ISBA, who is the most ambitious in his plans for
the industry now relations have improved. He has produced a ten-point
protocol covering all aspects of agency/client relationships, from
pitches to training and longer contracts - and Holloway wants this
‘Some sort of standard contract - or compact - should be agreed between
ISBA and the IPA. Without one,’ he stresses, ‘we are likely to hear a
lot of fine words, but witness very little real progress.’
Leader, page 25