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
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
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
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
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
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