Editorial: IPA hoping clients make a New Year's resolution

Every little helps, as one of the UK's largest and most consistently successful advertisers keeps reminding us. And the same might be said of the IPA's new year initiative to elevate the status of advertising in company boardrooms.

Certainly, "The Little Book of Growth", a mailer to the heads of the FTSE 350, and those who influence them, citing many examples of how creativity has helped fuel the organic growth of some of the most successful brands, can do no harm. What's more, the timing is apposite. Gordon Brown is already bracing Britain for a year of belt-tightening in the wake of last autumn's credit crunch. At best, adspend is expected to show no more than modest growth.

In calling on companies to be bold and harness advertising's power to see them through such turbulent times, the IPA should be pushing at an open door. Sadly, that seems not to be the case. If what the trade body is doing can help change some influential opinions, then good on it.

But 15 years ago, the then IPA president, Chris Powell, was talking about "building the corporate awareness of the worth of advertising". Today, it's clear how painfully slow the progress has been towards achieving that objective.

It almost beggars belief that advertising still has to justify itself in a way that almost no other mature business has to do. The industry is partly to blame for this, having given away too much of its expertise for nothing and losing much of its value and respect as it did so.

In fairness, the IPA has laboured long and hard to rebalance the relationship between agencies and clients. Its Effectiveness Awards have resulted in a databank containing hundreds of compelling case histories. However, the fact is that the clients most interested in the awards need no convincing of the case for advertising. Many of the others remain to be assured that advertising is truly measurable. And such cynicism is likely to linger as long as marketing remains so badly under-represented in the boardroom.

Nobody expects the advertising sceptics within the client community to undergo a Pauline conversion. Let's just hope that, in 15 years' time, the IPA president isn't announcing yet another plan to get advertising up the value chain.