Trade bodies respond to IPA merger initiative

On the face of it, the connection between the foot-and-mouth

epidemic and the need for the UK communications industry to have a

single body to represent its interests is hard to fathom.

But IPA chiefs cite the livestock crisis as an important example of what

can happen when an industry's fragmented structure prevents it speaking

up effectively for itself and how it can suffer as a result.

As the body representing an entire industry, the National Farmers' Union

won £1 billion worth of Government compensation for its


Contrast that with the tourist industry, ten times bigger and employing

four times as many people as farming but so fragmented and slow moving

that it was nowhere near as successful as the NFU.

Now the IPA Council has opted to pursue the most radical of the options

presented to it.

By backing what it calls the "big bang", the council believes it can

help evolve a more effective and cost-efficient trade body which

reflects industry consolidation while increasing its lobbying power in

Whitehall and Brussels. But some fear an umbrella body may have

difficulty representing all the views of its constituents.

Andrew Brown, the Advertising Association's director- general, said: "I

certainly see the advantages of concentrating power, especially when you

are dealing with the Government, which prefers talking to a single

organisation. I also think it's right for the IPA to be looking at ways

of renewing itself."

But, he added: "The danger is that in trying to present a common view

you may suppress important minority ones."

The AA itself is already regarded as an effective forum for the whole

industry, which has already seen a considerable amount of amalgamation

among its trade bodies during the past decade.

Colin Lloyd, the chief executive of the Direct Marketing Association,

said: "The DMA was the result of four industry bodies coming together

and six more have since joined us.

"All trade associations are under financial pressure and we have a duty

to our members to share resources. We would listen with interest to

anything the IPA would like to talk to us about."

Matthew Hooper, the chairman of the Sales Promotion Consultants

Association, asked: "What will this organisation do and how will it

benefit its members?

There have to be tangible benefits. It mustn't be a bureaucratic

organisation which sets out to please everybody and ends up pleasing


Chris O'Shea, the chairman of the IPA Creative Directors' Forum, said

the IPA initiative merited serious discussion. "There's been a blurring

of the lines between direct marketing, sales promotion and

above-the-line advertising and that's reflected in what we as creatives

are doing," he commented.

"I believe a single body would be better in both a creative and a

business sense."