IPA president's agenda: 'I am reimagining the three Rs. Role, revenue, responsibility'

In his agenda for his two years as IPA president, Nigel Vaz, chief executive of Publicis Sapient, has called for a rethinking of the ad industry's future.

The UK advertising industry – and our creative industries in general – are a jewel in the UK’s crown and rightly globally famed for the creative and commercial impact that they make. But we live in uncertain and challenging times. As we tease out new trading relationships with our European Union and global partners, our industry and our agencies will have to carve out a new future in a new economic landscape.

In our own industry, we see that the value of creativity is sometimes questioned. Our ability to make money is constrained, as is our ability to reinvest. Some clients perceive there is limited value delivered by us, to them. Procurement continues to own many of the client-agency relationships. In-housing is a growing trend, publicly celebrated by major clients. We find it harder to attract the best talent, to have the same brand appeal, or to pay as much as the technology giants and consultancies that now comprise our competitive set.

On a global stage, there is the rapid and fundamental change impacting business. Market forces are driving companies to rethink everything about how their businesses operate. As disruptive technologies and companies continue to impact consumer expectations, business environments are constantly changing. Our clients are struggling to adapt to this – and we have to be their partners to help them navigate this.

In addition, most companies are great at their core business, but not great at reimagining their future. Agencies are no different from their clients in this regard. Our challenges and our future success are interconnected.

My agenda will be a sequel to Sarah Golding’s, Tom Knox’s and Ian Priest’s – to build on what has gone before, but enact a step change. For those of you who think sequels are never as good as the original, I’m not aiming for the low bar of Jaws: The Revenge but more Terminator 2: Judgment Day, or even The Godfather Part II.

My objective as IPA president for the next two years will be to change the IPA’s relevance to agencies, and the relevance of agencies to clients – to establish us as partners for growth.

My agenda will be to "Reimagine"

I said before that companies are great at their core business, but not great at reimagining their future. The IPA is indeed great at what it does – powering the practitioners who make UK advertising what it is today. In delivering the "Reimagine" agenda, we will build on this, ensuring that the IPA does not represent the past but is relevant to the future.

That is what "Reimagine" is all about: understanding what you do best, how those qualities and that purpose must adapt in a changing world, and what we must transform to best partner with our clients in growth. Under my agenda, there are three Rs, which I believe we must reimagine: role, revenue and responsibility.

Our role will be to truly be a partner for growth for our clients, where future growth must be delivered through more than advertising. Reimagining revenue will see us rightfully begin to share in the benefits of growth delivered. Responsibility will see a marked uptick in our reputation as we increase our efforts to address brand trust, privacy and diversity.

Role

We must transform our role and relationships with clients to reflect our changing times and developing technologies. That new role is to help our clients reimagine their businesses and the way that they engage with their customers.

We must therefore transform our own agency models and ways of working, alongside new partners from data, technology and commerce to reimagine brands, comms and experiences. 

What will we do differently?

The learning and development programme of training and qualifications that the IPA offers is the best in the world. We will take these qualifications and elevate them from "valued" to "indispensable". We will add to them, with an effective IPA MBA. By working in partnership with leading business schools, we will develop a suite of IPA qualifications that our clients come to see as a prerequisite for the work we do in partnering with them for growth.

The IPA is rightly proud of its Royal Charter. During my presidency we will begin the process of incorporating Chartered Practitioner into the IPA’s qualifications programme – to make those qualifications an internationally renowned principal export.

We will launch a major consumer study "The Future of Brands, Communications and Experience". The study will explore the consumer’s experience of brands and communications in a digital age. And to improve the way we work, we will undertake a "Data Magic" initiative to ensure that the full potential of bringing external and internal data together is realised, and that the magic is maximised when creativity and data work together, rather than in opposition or as alternatives.

'In delivering the Reimagine agenda, we will ensure that the IPA does not represent the past but is relevant to the future'

Revenue

Shorthand for financial returns, revenue is the golden ticket that will help agencies escape the pressures they are under, and the prize when we successfully reimagine both our clients’ and own operating (and compensation) models. We will create, reveal, share, showcase and award those new success models.

To that end, we will launch the "Reimagine Challenge" to encourage agencies to act like start-ups and explore and develop new business models. The IPA will work with private equity partners and intermediaries to validate new agency models and extend this to a global initiative – working with our international partners to identify and share new agency success models, to develop a growth mindset, and ensure we deliver maximum value to our clients and are fairly remunerated for that.

We will additionally introduce a new IPA Effectiveness Awards President’s Prize for the "Best Contribution to Effectiveness through Technology" – to demonstrate the most effective use of technology to help reimagine how a brand engages with its consumers.

Responsibility

Our reputation for trust, transparency and progressive business and employment practices depends on reimagining the responsibilities of both agencies and their clients. This includes agencies taking a more active role in protecting clients’ interests and becoming true guardians of brand safety. It means reimagining what a fair agency contract looks like, to create win-win situations for agencies and clients, with business growth (not just cost) at the core.

It depends on us being beacons of inclusivity and diversity, committing to the benefits of agency and client teams reflecting the diversity of the target audiences they seek to engage.

How will we address this?

There is work to be done to clean up the digital frontier and to ensure that our industry, through the IPA, is a force for positive change and a champion of trust.

The IPA will acknowledge and address our role wherever we can add trust and transparency. We will partner with government, with ISBA, the IAB and AOP – and, where necessary we will act as a critical friend to the digital duopoly where standards in brand safety, online harms and transparency have been breached.

Key to responsibility (and, in part, to revenue growth) is sustainable relationships founded on knowledge, mutual understanding, open communication and ultimately trust. To our media agency members in particular, I will commit to creating and maintaining sustainable, value-led relationships that work for all parties based on mutual respect. Our "ISBA/IPA Sustainable Relationships Working Group" will promote the alignment of marketing, procurement and agencies and provide the foundation for future relationships.

In partnership with ISBA we will deliver a programme for advertisers and agencies of live study supported by digital-first content to grow mutual understanding and to drive alignment on an industry-wide basis.

The IPA has done excellent work in driving diversity up our industry’s agenda. Diversity is crucial to us reimagining our relevance in the world. Under my "Reimagine" agenda, I ask that the IPA and our member agencies take commitment to diversity to the next level – to look to solutions rather than just measurement of the problem. And we will introduce initiatives to help drive that change: the reporting of diversity ratios for women in leadership roles, and BAME people in both entry-level and leadership roles will become mandatory for IPA member agencies from 2021.

My aim over the two years of my presidency will be to establish the IPA as the go-to resource for agency diversity improvements. To that end we will work with Creative Equals to establish an Equality Standard to provide the industry with the framework and training to help member agencies attain that standard as part of their agency’s Continuous Professional Development.

I recognise the opportunities we have could shape the future of our industry, but the change and challenges we face in realising that future are significant.

We, the IPA, see what you see – because we begin this journey acknowledging what every one of you is facing. As I take on this role, I am apprehensive but also excited by what these next two years and beyond hold for consumers, clients and agencies.

I will leave you with this thought, and pledge: if we commit to help our clients reimagine their futures, we will reimagine our own.

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