CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/THE IPA - Rupert Howell outlines his manifesto for the IPA. Digital, media and conflict are among the issues that concern the IPA president

These are the issues I see facing us over the next few years and what we can do about them. In every case, I’m sure there can be a positive outcome.

These are the issues I see facing us over the next few years and

what we can do about them. In every case, I’m sure there can be a

positive outcome.

The separation of creative and media agencies

There is a generation of media people growing up who have never directly

experienced the process of producing a good creative idea, and,

similarly, a generation of planners and creatives whose only experience

of media is their own consumption of it. As 34 of the major media

agencies are now Institute of Practitioners in Advertising members, the

IPA is ideally placed to bridge the gap with training initiatives

designed to give each party a grounding in the other’s areas of


The digital/interactive/e-commerce future

We are experiencing the beginnings of a revolution that will transform

our industry over the next decade and that is pretty scary. We can

either bury our heads in the sand and hope it will go away, in which

case we’ll end up niche players. Or we can look upon it as our biggest

growth opportunity since the arrival of commercial television. I favour

the latter approach.

The problem is that no-one knows what this future will look like, so I

think we have to adopt a motto from the Wharton Business School in the

US: ’It’s not what you know, it’s how quickly you learn.’ The IPA can

play a key role in collating, examining and disseminating that learning

from around the world.


Both clients and agencies are experiencing massive concentration of


Inevitably, this will lead to more conflict issues. Like everyone else,

I was delighted to see Procter & Gamble relax its conflict rules

recently, but I hope even more progress can be made. Perhaps the IPA and

the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers can look at this issue

together, because a relaxed conflict environment helps good agencies

grow and allows them to develop greater depth of expertise in areas

where they excel - which should benefit their clients too.

Regulatory bodies

All the clients and agencies I talked to are concerned about the

Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre. This is not an attack on the

BACC. The concern expressed is that we’re swamping them with more and

more multiple-choice scripts and needing their responses quicker and

quicker, and they just don’t have the resources to cope. I want to

develop a dialogue with the IPA, ISBA and the BACC to see what we can

all do to help make the process more efficient and as pain-free as



Any advertising executive who does not have a competent understanding of

all the other marketing communications disciplines is unlikely to be

able to serve his or her client’s best interests and is liable to be


I believe this will be another growth area for IPA training, and it is

essential that the relevant trade bodies such as the Direct Marketing

Association and the Institute of Sales Promotion continue to collaborate

with the IPA to foster good relationships and better understanding

between disciplines.

Quality of graduates

We could be doing more to attract the best graduates into the

advertising industry. The media world is the most exciting and dynamic

world to be working in today. We need to communicate our passion,

excitement and importance to the graduate community. And once we have

recruited bright people, we have to train, develop and retain them. In

the end, advertising agencies are talent brokers. We need to invest in

the best people, training and systems and we need to be paid well.

Quality of clients

The quality of senior clients is better than ever - partly because a lot

of people with marketing backgrounds are now managing directors and

chief executives. But I do wonder if junior clients are getting the

quality of training and support that they need. With exception of the

likes of P&G, Unilever and Mars, a lot of clients are under-training

their marketing staff. I would love to see more joint IPA/ISBA training

initiatives for young clients.

Those are the issues as I see them and I feel very positive about our

ability to tackle them. I believe that all four constituencies that

determine how the advertising industry is judged are becoming positively


Those four constituencies are:

The general public

People love ads. Just look at the acres of text devoted to Flat


There is a 75 per cent approval rating for advertising in this


I have a personal theory that one of the reasons people like TV

advertising so much, and therefore why it is so effective, is because

they can escape from it if they want, to a viable alternative called the

BBC. That is why I support the IPA’s cautious view about the further

commercialisation of the BBC.

The City

All of the analysts I have met of my age or under believe that the level

of investment in brands is one of the true measures of any company’s


One of the most vocal supporters of brand advertising in the City is

John Wakely, a drinks analyst at Lehman Brothers. A while ago he phoned

me to ask: ’Did you see company X’s results this morning?’ I was honest:

’No.’ ’They made their profit target.’ ’Why are you ringing to tell me

that?’ I asked. He replied: ’The buggers did it by cutting pounds 80

million from their worldwide A&P budget so I’m going to mark them down.’

There are more and more analysts beginning to think the same way. We

must encourage them because that will encourage clients to invest in

their brands.

The business community

We are moving away from an era of supply management to one of demand

creation. The business community knows that brands and advertising are

important but it needs continual persuasion that ad agencies are the

best organisations to deliver those ideas.

The Government

Whatever you think of this Government, you have to admire their

perspicacity when it comes to our industry (and their ever-increasing

spend with us!).

Stephen Byers, the Trade and Industry Secretary, said on 27 January: ’In

areas such as media, advertising and entertainment we have a worldwide

reputation for creativity and excellence.’ Hallelujah! Compare that with

the previous administration, which managed to produce a Green Paper on

competitiveness without once mentioning marketing or advertising (until

the IPA and the Advertising Association intervened).

Whatever, we matter and I believe we’ll never have a better chance to

establish that fact. Of course, we mustn’t be arrogant but we should be

proud of what we do, what we contribute to culture, the economy and

society and of the value we add to brands.

This article is based on Rupert Howell’s inaugural speech to the IPA

this week.

Leader, p23.


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