The IPA President New Year's Address

The IPA president Julian Douglas delivers his new address to the industry on his plans for the agency business in 2022

By Julian Douglas

"So… New Year. Same drill. We’re meeting remotely.

That means I need to make it snappy. No Time to Die proved that even 007 can’t get away with taking too long these days.

I built my Presidency on seizing these abnormal times, this discontinuous moment, to tackle some of the long-standing issues we face as an industry and society.

UK advertising showed remarkable strength and adaptability in 2021 to not only stay afloat but to end the year in growth according to the latest Bellwether Report.

Can we say the same of the IPA?

Today, I want to update you on progress against the 3 pillars of my 10X agenda: Tech, IPA and Think.

Last time we went to Manchester. Let me once again take you on a trip to somewhere better. Or this time, perhaps I should say meta!..

My first pillar was TECH 10X

A challenge to embrace new technologies and shift gaming and AR/VR from the periphery to the mainstream of advertising.

And did we deliver!

We’ve seen The O2 in Fortnite, Fashion Awards in Roblox and Adidas NFTs.

I am talking to you today from Garden Studios in London, where virtual production companies like Quite Brilliant are transforming how we make content. These gaming technologies have already transformed the film world and the potential for advertising is huge. At the press of a button they can turn day to night and back again, transport me to multiple locations with no flights, no visas, no PCR tests required

This virtual production approach is opening up a whole new world of opportunities and crucially, significantly reducing travel - the single biggest contributor to our carbon impact.

So…. Pillar 2 - IPA 10X

2021 was the year our industry went back to school. We saw record numbers of people signing up for IPA courses.

We launched our D&I qualification and with over 800 people completing the course, it has been the most successful in our history.

We saw a tenfold increase in the number of people completing the IPA Excellence Diploma in Business, delivered by LSE.

An impressive 19 agencies were awarded the brand new IPA Effectiveness Accreditation in recognition of their strong effectiveness cultures.

And in line with Cop26, we launched the AdNetZero certificate: the first sustainability qualification for advertising professionals. Sign up to equip yourself with the knowledge, tools and resources to act on the climate crisis and reduce the carbon impact of developing, producing and running advertising to real net-zero by 2030.

The final pillar of my agenda was Think 10X: a series of moonshot initiatives to use our collective powers of insight and creativity to tackle society’s biggest problems.

We started with a valuable failure when we brought together 10 big supermarkets and their 10 agencies to tackle the issue of food waste in the UK. The agencies were up for the challenge, but ultimately the supermarkets were not. The lesson learned was good intentions alone are not enough - the urge for change must be real.

That urge is very real in our second initiative that looks to tackle the recruitment crisis in the hospitality industry which is currently reporting over 200,000 unfilled vacancies. This time the clients are very much on board. We have already raised half a million pounds from industry operators and suppliers and are in final talks to becoming recognised as the preferred recruitment partner for the Hospitality and Tourism Skills Board, which will unlock further funding.

So what’s next?

Looking forwards and further afield, Tech 10x takes us to West Coast USA where the IPA will be hosting a virtual conference on immersive gaming with SF Big, San Francisco’s digital marketing association.

Then, Covid-permitting, in late February I will be joining the DIT CreaTech trade mission to Mumbai, which aims to open export opportunities in India for UK creative companies.

Back in the UK, in the spring the IPA will be piloting an interactive workshop with Collective and Unreal, where member agencies can explore the gaming engine and its creative potential.

Onto IPA 10x

On 27th January, RENEW 2022 will once again bring together the IPA, ISBA and the AA.

One of the initiatives to be launched at RENEW that is of huge importance to me personally is the Pitch Positive Pledge. Over the years, there have been many attempts to improve the agency selection process. Despite best intentions, diligent work, and many best practice guides, little has changed

But I am confident of success this time.

Why? First, covid has exacerbated the toll taken by the current pitch system. Win or lose, pitching wastes time, effort and resource and can have a terrible effect on the wellbeing and mental health of our people..

Second, this is a truly collaborative effort between ISBA and IPA, a shared responsibility between the advertisers and their agencies to take meaningful action.

Another IPA initiative that I’m looking forward to is the iList 2022. This turbo-boosted second iteration of the iList once again celebrates the real heroes of inclusion at all levels across our industry. Entry is free and open until the end of January, so please nominate yourself or a colleague.

And of course, this year sees the return of the crown jewels: the IPA Effectiveness Awards. In line with my agenda, the President’s Prize will be awarded to the entry which best demonstrates an innovative marketing approach that accelerates significant behaviour change.

On Think 10x: I’m with Rory Sutherland when he reflects that there are a huge number of problems that can only be solved at category level, rather than brand level. There are tons of category problems out there, yet almost all of agency time is dedicated to solving problems at the brand level.

So we’re going after two category problems.

One - the issue of roadside litter. One in seven UK motorists admits to chucking rubbish out of their car windows. I want to use our creative clout to change attitudes and behaviour.

Two – I’ve been wondering whether advertising itself has a category problem. I want to explore how we might mount a campaign that instead of pitching brand against brand, agency against agency, changes attitudes to us!

So I hope that gives you lots to think about as we advance through this era of predictable unpredictability.

I wish you all the best and success for the year ahead - I think it might just turn out to be a belter!"

Watch the whole video here.

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