The power of 10: New IPA president Julian Douglas unveils acceleration agenda

VCCP vice-chairman wages a war on incrementalism.

Julian Douglas: IPA president set out '10X' agenda
Julian Douglas: IPA president set out '10X' agenda

Julian Douglas, the IPA’s new president, has thrown down the gauntlet to the ad industry, urging it to move 10 times quicker and be 10 times bolder to capitalise on a unique moment in time as the world resets post-pandemic.

In a rallying cry to agencies, the VCCP vice-chairman and international chief executive used his inaugural address to set out his “10x Accelerate Opportunity” agenda. He unveiled a number of key initiatives, under three strands, including a new accreditation scheme, a Rory Sutherland-fronted “think-tank” project and a drive to collaborate with the gaming sector. He also plans a trade mission to India next year.

The address, which would usually take place at an in-person event, kicks off a two-year presidential tenure. Douglas succeeds Publicis Sapient global chief executive Nigel Vaz in the role.

Douglas, known to most as Dougie, filmed the speech in his home city of Manchester at the Science and Industry Museum because “it is a city that finds renewal and reinvention in turbulence and trouble”.

He started by saying that despite the best efforts of industry, “we’ve seen our relevance wane, our budgets shrink, retainers replaced by piecemeal projects, the relentless march of short-termism, in-housing, consultancies and tech platforms”.

But he added that the coronavirus crisis has delivered “an inflection point, a discontinuous moment to change things, an opportunity to press reset on a whole range of issues far beyond advertising” and shown that rapid change is possible.

“What if we were to harness those positives to apply a multiplier effect to how we tackle the perennial problems advertising and society more broadly faces?" he asked.

“What if we were to make incrementalism our enemy and resolve instead to move 10 times sooner, 10 times bigger, 10 times bolder? Going after that ‘what if’ is I what I want to my presidency to do,” he said.

The plan

IPA 10X

Douglas launched the IPA Effectiveness Accreditation programme, a scheme for member agencies aimed at “creating processes, environments, attitudes and, ultimately, values that deliver pride in the business results of what we do for our clients and ourselves”. This is an effort to create an “effectiveness culture within agencies day to day”, he said.

Accreditation will be assessed every two years, in the alternate year from the IPA Effectiveness awards, and will last for two years.

He also laid out plans to ramp up the number of executives completing the IPA’s MBA Essentials qualification run in partnership with the London School of Economics and urged agencies to correct the “glacial progress” made on diversity.

Think 10X

Douglas set out his belief that creativity can help alleviate problems from “environmental degradation to societal inequality”.

“I’m with Mark Read when he posits that our ability to look at the world differently makes us better at finding fresh solutions than the management consultants,” he said.

To further this mission, he revealed plans to create the “IPA 10X think-tank”, working with Ogilvy vice-chairman Rory Sutherland “to show the world what advertising’s brightest thinkers are capable of”.

Tech 10X

A series of partnerships with the “very best” companies working in gaming around the world to “upskill and collaborate” with agencies, including one with Epic Games, also formed part of the agenda.

“This sector is bigger than the movie and music industry combined, and with the explosion of mobile gaming, is growing at pace... Yet it is still largely overlooked by us as an industry,” Douglas commented.

The IPA will also work with Facebook on a new partnership on the advancement of AR in marketing through a series of educational seminars and practical workshops. 

The new president called on IPA members to accompany him on a trade mission to India next year “to meet, learn from and collaborate with new tech partners in the world’s biggest democracy and emergent economy – Asia’s answer, and increasingly rival, to Silicon Valley”.

Cop26 in Glasgow in November and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 also offered “exciting opportunities for collaboration”.

Bigger and bolder

In closing, Douglas told the industry: “I need you, your energy, ideas and opinions to make this sooner, bigger, bolder agenda happen. So please see this as an invitation to get involved.

“Advertising is ready to fulfil much bigger ambitions than just survival. We have the data, the technology, the pure creative firepower to change the world and our place in it,” he concluded.

Who’s ‘Dougie’?

Douglas joined VCCP in 2008 and has more than 20 years’ experience at agencies including WCRS, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, TBWA and Grey working on brands such as Audi, Barnardo’s, Domino's, Levi’s, Lynx, Nationwide Building Society, O2 and Shell. He’s also the co-founder of the karaoke bar chain Lucky Voice.

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