No prizes for predicting that the IPA Advertising Effectiveness
Awards night would not be the most fun-filled occasion. After all, this
was to be the event at which the UK ad industry showed its clients how
seriously it took their business. It ended up showing how over-seriously
it has begun to take itself.
Determined to claim its members’ place at the clients’ right hand by
restoring and extending advertising’s status, the IPA seemed intent on
turning the London Hilton into a humour-free zone.
Long, dreary speeches hammered home the same points so many times that
clients among the audience must have been wondering whether the welter
of words was smoke-screening much insecurity. Particularly over the
march of the management consultants into agency territory, a threat oft
trumpeted by Graham Hinton, the IPA president, but which few agency
chiefs appear to be losing sleep over.
In attempting to ensure it is on the clients’ wavelength, the industry
is in danger of becoming a bunch of boring sobersides. It’s one thing to
overhaul the awards in order to ensure clients continue taking them
seriously. It’s quite another to suppress the effervescence and
non-conformity that allow agencies to weave their magic.
Nobody suggests that a night on which advertising effectiveness is
honoured should be like creative awards in their uninhibited and
industry-focused approach. But that doesn’t mean the hectoring shouldn’t
be turned down and the humour turned up. None of the clients at last
week’s event needed to be sold the idea that good advertising works.
All the more reason why the effectiveness awards should be an occasion
for the industry not only to present outstanding case histories but to
showcase the creativity that made their success possible. That ought to
put a smile on everyone’s face.