EDITORIAL: Woodford still has much to do for IPA

The hunt for a new IPA president has been compared with looking for baby pigeons. Nobody knows where they come from but they always seem to turn up. Perhaps a more apposite comparison might be the race for the White House. So often those best equipped to do the job are those most heavily committed elsewhere.

Against that background, Stephen Woodford's nomination as the IPA's president-elect is welcome. At 43, the WCRS chief executive is one of the new generation of senior managers vital to the industry's leadership. Some long distant incumbents have been semi-detached from agency life with time on their hands but not heavily immersed in the industry maelstrom.

Woodford not only has a persuasive charm but a wide range of contacts across the advertising scene. Most importantly, he remains involved at the business coalface. Let's hope, though, that he doesn't feel pressured to undertake the now-established ritual of presidents-to-be in spending long periods before his election doing the rounds of the communication community to establish his presidential priorities. The industry's collective agenda doesn't change that quickly or radically and there's a danger of launching empty initiatives for their own sake.

Nobody forgets the hares set running by Rupert Howell, the IPA's immediate past president - from greater rapport between media and creative agencies to better resourced regulatory bodies and a more commonsense approach to account conflict. All worthy aims but unachievable within the span of a single presidency.

Woodford will have enough on his plate building on the work of the current president, Bruce Haines, in putting the championing of creativity at the heart of IPA activity and changing perceptions of the body. What's more, if his leadership of the IPA's Diversity project to expand the racial make-up of Britain's agencies and make them more relevant to a multiracial society can deliver on its aims, this alone will be a significant legacy.

Under the reforming Howell and Haines, the IPA is no longer quite the stuffy place that its Knightsbridge home suggests. And Woodford is committed to building on their achievements. There's one target he could set himself, however. In its 84-year history the IPA has never had a female president.

If Woodford's two-year term ended with the baton being passed to Christine Walker or Cilla Snowball, that would be progress indeed.

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