FORUM: In what direction will Kelly take IPA media policy?

Ray Kelly has been given the task of following John Perriss as the chairman of the IPA’s Media Policy Group. Perriss could prove to be a hard act to follow. What exactly is the task facing Kelly as he takes over? Is it time for a reassessment or should we expect more of the same? Alasdair Reid investigates.

Ray Kelly has been given the task of following John Perriss as the

chairman of the IPA’s Media Policy Group. Perriss could prove to be a

hard act to follow. What exactly is the task facing Kelly as he takes

over? Is it time for a reassessment or should we expect more of the

same? Alasdair Reid investigates.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has made some mistakes in

its time but, where media is concerned, the biggest mistake of all was

telling media independents exactly where they could go and what they

could do when they got there. This happened over 15 years ago - ancient

history in the media market - but it has had long-lasting


The fault line between media practitioners and the rest of the marketing

communications process has only recently been smoothed over.

That process was completed - or 99 per cent completed - last week, with

the hiring of Ray Kelly, the chief executive of Carat UK, as the new

chairman of the IPA’s Media Policy Group (Campaign, 11 April). Kelly and

TMD, Carat’s corporate ancestor, were among those who were turned into

pariahs by the IPA boycott of independents.

Carat has been in the IPA fold for three years now, thanks to the

enlightenment of the outgoing Media Policy Group chairman, John Perriss

All but a handful of media specialists have followed the Carat example,

so the appointment of Kelly is, perhaps, charged with symbolism. His

appointment underlines the reunification of the industry.

Is it now time for the remaining outsiders - notably John Ayling and

Associates and the CIA Group - to come into the fold? They have been

nursing injured pride since the initial IPA snub but that was a very

long time ago. With Kelly at the IPA’s media helm, surely it’s time for

them to admit that things have moved on.

But what is the Media Policy Group’s role now and in the future? Does it

still serve a useful purpose? Kelly, who is on holiday, isn’t available

to comment. John Perriss is though. He doesn’t want to appear immodest,

but he believes he can be proud of the group’s track record under his


’In recent years we have achieved more than ever,’ he points out. ’We

made a significant impact on Government policy, particularly in


We are the one group that consistently called for the introduction of

Channel 5 and it was our lobbying which ensured a 25 per cent market

share cap on TV sales houses. Over the years, we have become better and

better at lobbying.’

Perriss says that this effort must be maintained; as must the essential

work of IPA members in ensuring the smooth running of the various joint

industry media research committees. But should the IPA try to work more

closely with the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers? This could

be one of the most contentious issues facing Kelly. In fact, some

observers believe that the IPA’s problem recently has been just the

reverse - its members have had their arms twisted by powerful clients

and the Media Policy Group is becoming no more than an ISBA


’Nonsense,’ Perriss states. He points to two areas of difference: the

BBC and advertising minutage. On the BBC, ISBA still believes it should

be forced to take ads, while the IPA wants it to act within its charter

as a less aggressively commercial broadcaster. On the subject of more TV

ad minutage, for which ISBA has always argued, many IPA members believe

that the resultant clutter would be counter-productive in the long


Perriss adds: ’On media issues, our representation is better resourced

than ISBA’s and generally more considered. We understand better that

politics is all about the art of the possible.’

The Media Policy Group is the most active and effective part of the IPA,

according to its director-general, Nick Phillips. He also says that the

time is right for the Association of Media Independents to come on

board: ’We have a peer group of very heavy hitters and it makes no sense

to me that there are a couple of people who are not with us for

historical reasons.

Both John Ayling and Associates and CIA are very respected


Any trade association that doesn’t stay at the leading edge of the

market will fall by the wayside. We have the resource to lead rather

than follow.

I’d very much welcome them in. The door is always open.’

But is that the main goal? Will that be Kelly’s main mission? Some

critics say the group hasn’t taken enough of a lead on recent

controversial issues, particularly on the debate about flaws in the TV

airtime trading market.

Adrian Birchall, the chief executive of DMB&B’s new European media

operation, MediaVest, and until recently a leading member of the group,

says there are reasons for that. The IPA, he believes, is wise in saying

that it will steer clear of trading issues. ’Media people tend to have a

background in negotiation and, as such, tend to be extremely

competitive. It sometimes surprises even me that we manage to sit down

one day a month a get to a consensus on most issues. But those are

strategic issues. Trading issues touch more directly on our competitive

positionings as agencies.’

Birchall adds it’s no bad thing to listen to what senior clients have to

say on media matters: ’We act as agents for advertisers. That’s the

industry we are in. It would be odd if we thought it right to disagree

with clients on a systematic basis. But there are issues about which we

feel differently. Our main concern is reaching the right solution.’

Bob Wootton, ISBA’s director of media services, isn’t wholly


’Those at the IPA say they are catalysts, not agents for change, but I

sometimes wish they’d stick their necks out and be more proactive. You

could argue that it’s the IPA that should be taking a stand, smack in

the middle of these trading issues. I’d also like to try to elicit

support for our initiatives without soul-searching and gnashing of teeth

on their part. But these are not major criticisms - the Media Policy

Group serves a very useful purpose and we respect its work.’

Does Wootton look forward to working with Ray Kelly? Will John Perriss

be a hard act to follow? ’I don’t intend this as a major criticism but,

as the chairman of Zenith Media Worldwide, John spent a lot of his time

on aeroplanes. Ray’s appointment is thoroughly good news. He will be

more accessible, he knows his media backwards and is a bluff sort of

character who gets things done.’