IPA moves to form single trade body

LONDON - The IPA has laid the groundwork for the creation of a single "supergroup" to become the voice of Britain's entire communications industry, a move that would put it out of existence in its current form.

The council of the agency trade body this week gave the green light to moves which could result in the IPA losing its separate identity after 84 years and acting as the catalyst for an umbrella organisation.

If an agreement can be reached, the body would

embrace not only the IPA but also the Sales Promotion Consultants Association, the Internet Advertising Bureau, the Public Relations Consultants Association and the agency section of the Direct Marketing Association.

At the same time, the IPA would give up the lease on

its Belgravia headquarters, a move which could raise up to £4 million to help fund a new centre near the industry's heartland in Soho or Covent Garden.

The new building would

also be used to showcase the industry's best work, with exhibition space being made available to organisations such as the D&AD.

But IPA chiefs are emphasising that plans are at a very early stage. Bruce Haines, the IPA's president, said: "The council meeting was the first discussion to examine the strategic options open to us. Among those options is to

initiate talks with other trade organisations to establish whether there is enough common ground to formalise a working relationship."

Privately, the IPA acknowledges it is entering a political minefield and will need to handle matters sensitively if it is not to be accused of empire building.

One option is to allow each body to retain its identity within the new organisation as a precursor to an eventual full merger. "It would be difficult for other bodies to join with us if we were still called the IPA," Hamish Pringle, the director-general of the IPA, admitted. Other potential problems could arise over job losses as services are combined and overheads cut.

Membership fees could also because problems. Last year a proposed merger between the IPA and the SPCA was aborted because IPA subscriptions are up to four times higher than the SPCA's.

The driving force behind the proposal is the acknowledgment that the IPA's name and positioning makes other marketing communications agencies whose main activities are not "pure" advertising reluctant to apply for membership.

Meanwhile, there is a growing belief that the number of trade bodies is creating confusion and dilutes the industry's influence on the Government and the EU at a time of growing legislative and regulatory threats.

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