Close-Up: Newsmaker - The reformist media man inside the IPA citadel media man inside the IPA citadels IPA reform

David Pattison is the new president appointed with a brief to help the IPA evolve into a broader church, Jeremy Lee writes.

While it would be overstating it to say the IPA was redolent of those disgusting 50s London boarding houses that advertised rooms with the condition "No Irish, no blacks, no dogs", there has long been the impression that media has been regarded somewhat sniffily by some in the advertising establishment.

The appointment of David Pattison, the worldwide chief executive of PHD, as the IPA's new president therefore marks a significant step for the industry trade body and is evidence that this view is no longer appropriate.

Given the increasing recognition of the importance of media, evident in the trend for creative agencies to foster greater links with media companies or launch their own media departments, it seems particularly timely.

With notable and recent exceptions, the sweep of past IPA presidents has been drawn from the ranks of creative agency account management. Although Pattison is not and never has been a woman (an attribute that some thought essential for Stephen Woodford's replacement), he breaks the mould in every other way. A self-confessed outsider, he is a straight-talking former media planner/buyer who has risen up the greasy pole to become the worldwide chief executive of the agency he helped create.

Though the industry surprise was tempered somewhat by the expectation that the incoming president would not be from a classic agency account management background, Pattison at least claims to have been startled by the call.

"I was sitting at JFK with a hangover when the phone rang, just after our agency Christmas party in New York. I thought I was dreaming, because it's not something I'd ever thought I would do. I've never seen myself as an establishment person - not that it's bad - and this is an establishment role in some ways," he explains.

While Pattison says he was surprised to be offered the job, the reaction from his counterparts at the creative agencies was rather more stifled.

Indeed, there was the distinct undercurrent that the IPA was indulging in simple tokenism, something Pattison refutes. "I don't think it was about ticking boxes because, at the end of the day, the job has got to be done and there's no point having a lame-duck president. I don't think they would do a token thing," he says.

"I think it was probably about time that someone who wasn't either an account handler or a creative was president. Our world is changing. Perhaps the IPA wanted to prove it is a broader church than just creative advertising agencies."

Pattison officially takes over the president's mantle in April and says he is unable to discuss what his agenda will be because he is still in the process of putting it together, which will involve meeting representatives from all sectors of the advertising industry.

"I was humbled and genuinely bowled over and I'm looking forward to doing it. I'm a bit in awe of it because I'm not entirely sure what it is yet.

I've got to spend the next two or three months finding out exactly what it involves and how I can make my mark on it," he explains.

Given that the response to his appointment from the creative community was less than overwhelming, and given his own admission that he regards himself as something of an outsider, affirming his credentials with the advertising and, particularly, the creative establishment must surely be high on Pattison's agenda?

Pattison is of a vintage to have worked at a full-service agency (he even claims to have written an ad for Granada Television with the strapline: "Your pound works harder on Granada"), and when he founded PHD, involvement in the creative process was at the heart of its offering. But more broadly, he doesn't think that creativity can be pigeonholed into just one part of the communications industry.

"I defy you to say if you look at our world that a media agency isn't creative, that an advertising agency isn't creative, that a direct marketing agency isn't creative, that a promotions agency isn't creative," he says.

"There is creativity everywhere because we have got some fantastically smart people in our business." This suggests that he will be looking to broaden the IPA's membership further and to make it more inclusive by encouraging greater representation of those companies that are not in the classic advertising agency sector.

He also sees other issues facing the industry that could be part of his reforming agenda: "If we want to have good people working in our industry we have to pay them well. Some clients pay fairly and some try not to pay fairly - there's no point ducking the whole issue of procurement departments. It's back to 'how do we show that we are a valuable asset?'"

This is a perennial issue but Pattison thinks greater co-operation and less sniping between agencies would help convince clients that the industry provides them with a genuinely important service.

"How on earth can we expect clients to respect us and value us when we don't even respect ourselves?" he asks. "We spend our whole lives slagging each other off, telling clients that that agency's not very good or that work's crap but we are brilliant. In the end, the client is going to go: 'so, you're telling me that the whole industry is crap other than you, so it's a crap industry?' We have to spend some time talking up our industry internally," he adds.

As well as being the first media agency person to become the president of the IPA, Pattison is also the first to have a worldwide job. As the chief executive of the PHD network, he spends a proportion of his time in the US (he only recently moved his base back to London).

"Working in the US was enlightening - you realise how small we are over here. We're very influential, because we have a slightly broader perspective. Ultimately, though, the power lies there - 70 per cent of ad pounds come from the east coast of America," he says.

This suggests that Pattison is keen to foster better relations between the IPA and US ad industry bodies such as the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

While we shall have to wait until April to discover the exact details of Pattison's agenda and of the IPA's corresponding actions, he does promise that his agenda will be a reforming one.

"What I don't want to be - because I've never been this as a person - is someone who just pushes the pedals around for two years. I do think that the IPA needs to be helped to evolve and I think that's what my job is. I think it's not for me to change - they've chosen me for what I am, not for what they might be able to mould me into," he says.


Age: 48

Lives: Bermondsey, London SE1

Family: Three sons: Tom, Sam and Joe

Favourite ad: Fiat Strada "robots"

Describe yourself in three words: Ageing, balding, spreading

What are your passions? Cars, fishing, cricket and loud guitar music

Greatest extravagance: My children