IPA Josh QA 3

'Opening Eyes, Hearts and Minds', Newly Elected IPA President talks 'People First' agenda

His inaugural speech was followed by a live Q&A with Creative Salon. In fighting talk, Josh Krichefski explains how his agenda will help drive relevance for the industry

By Avnie Bansal

On Monday, March 27 the newly elected IPA President, and GroupM CEO for EMEA and UK, Josh Krichefski announced his 'People First’ agenda. The three key tenets of his agenda include:

  1. Opening eyes: Re-frame advertising’s cultural and societal relevance in modern Britain to attract the best talent.

2. Opening hearts: Help retain and nurture advertising talent by being more inclusive than ever.

3. Opening minds: Look after the wellbeing of everyone working in the ad agency business by focusing on and supporting initiatives that promote positive mental health.

His inaugural speech was followed by a live Q&A session to unpick some of the key points in his agenda, with Co-Founder, Creative Salon, Sonoo Singh. Josh also took live questions for the virtual audience in attendance. (The following interview has been edited for clarity).

Creative Salon: A hugely ambitious plan to try and reframe advertising, in terms of its cultural, social, and economic value and relevance. Will your time as the IPA president allow you to achieve what you have set out to do?

Josh Krichefski: Yes, two years is not a very long time. But I think what I can do in the two years, is create the frameworks and set out the resources to enable the leaders of the agencies to make sustainable change in our industry. Everything that I've set out to do (in my agenda) require focus. Nothing that I'm actually talking about is new. But as long as people focus on them for now and continue to moving forward, way beyond my presidency, then I think we'll be successful. And hopefully, we'll make a dent in the areas that we want to make a dent in.

CS: In an era of heightened social awareness when agencies have been forced to get better when it comes to looking after their people, their talent, and getting their own houses in order - does the IPA still have relevance?

Josh Krichefski: You've touched on somewhere here - that it's tough being a leader of any business, because the job is no longer just about driving growth. It's also about many of the things that I talked about in my agenda and so it's quite difficult. Also, I think that you get a lot of soapbox dictators, who sort of are always dictating that "We need to be this, We need to be that, We need to do more of this," but not with much kind of help or guidance as to how. And that's, what I believe the role of the IPA can be around the areas that I've talked about, particularly around mental health and inclusion.

Also the IPA's got a really important role to play when it comes to attracting talent in our industry. When I was first asked to do this role, and it was a great honour to be asked, and then I thought, What am I going to do? Our jobs are tough. We're all very busy. We're all stressed. No one's got any time. So the best thing I can do is try and help with that and try to sort of provide guidance and support which is really what leadership's about.

CS: You talk about collaboration with other industry bodies like the AA and ISBA. Do you want to expand on that?

Josh Krichefski: I'd love to do more collaboration with the Advertising Association and ISBA. It's no coincidence, the AA has set out an agenda around talent as well, because there's nothing more important right now in our industry. So, I'm very keen for us to collaborate on running a campaign together to attract talent from all around the country, into our industry. I'd also love to be able to work with them on my mental health agenda. It's something that doesn't need to just be within agencies, but can also be across the whole industry. When it comes to ISBA, I love the Pitch-Positive Pledge that Dougie (Julian Douglas, vice chairman of VCCP and former IPA President) led. And I'm interested in potentially exploring what more we can do with ISBA around improving rules of engagement, especially when it comes to pitching. Collaboration with both bodies is really important.

CS: Let's talk about you mental health initiative. We have NABS, which does some fantastic work in this area. Why did you think that the IPA needs to tackle this head on?

Josh Krichefski: NABS does brilliant work around mental health, and they do really good training around resilience as well. I've personally had experience with NABS, when much earlier in my career I called upon them for a bit of support and I just think they're an amazing resource for our industry. I support them wholeheartedly.

The role that NABS plays is very much around the individual, which is very important. The way that I see the IPA's role around mental health is much more for our member agencies and for their businesses. How we can support companies at an institutional level so that they can make systemic change and also how can we create a best-in-class way of doing things that everybody can adopt? No matter what size of business you're running, no matter where you are in the country.

Something that I want is to really create what I've called a kind of three-pronged framework for all agencies to adopt. And for it to be quite easy for them to adopt it. But obviously, it's really important for us to provide our member agencies with the resources to be able to help them do that. So that's why I want to have a kind of resource hub for a new era of the mental workplace so that all agencies can find all the best in class training and resources and toolkits to be able to adopt in their companies, so that they can sign up to what I'm asking for.

The framework will be developed over the coming months and housed, and supported by, a New IPA Era on Mental Health Resource Hub.

CS: Let's bring in some audience questions. Have you road tested your progressive agenda with clients at all?

Josh Krichefski: The basis of my IPA agenda is something that I've been working on for a few years. It is around legislation and how the government could potentially create a policy so that businesses above a certain size would be able to provide what I'm calling 'a minimal standard of mental health care' for their people. The three-pronged framework of Empower, Support and Prevent is also based on this.

I've been working with different forward-thinking businesses, some of whom are my clients on that. They all buy into the principles of what we're trying to do here, because it makes sense. I'm very purposeful with this agenda and doing it for the IPA agencies, rather than saying all clients should be doing this as well. Potentially, there'll be a broader conversation that we could have with clients. But I want to focus on agencies to begin with.

CS: Do you think your 'People First' agenda is too internally focused when the industry needs championing beyond it?

Josh Krichefski: The first agenda item is around projecting the relevance of advertising to society and to the outside world. That's why I want to do a campaign about the relevancy and kind of diverse set of skills that we have in our industry that will showcase that whatever you do, whatever you're interested in, there's a relevant role for you in our industry. That will be very external facing element of my agenda. Obviously, the mental health and inclusion elements are more internally facing for our industry and our agencies. But I've tried to get the balance right of both external and internal.

CS: At a time when trust in the industry is at its lowest, will your agenda allow it to be more fit for the future?

Josh Krichefski: I think we are purpose fit for the future. I just think we're not great at selling that story externally. As I said before, it's a fact that the fastest-growing brands over the past 10 years have been the ones that are purpose-driven and now the vast majority of brands are purpose-driven. Now, we're in a kind of unique position to be able to communicate that to the outside world through the advertising and communications that we do. However, I don't think we do a brilliant job of banging that drum to the outside world. And I think we need to do more. We are already relevant, I think it's just about kind of showing that to people. And I think that's the job of my first pillar.

CS: Given the ongoing climate crisis, does sustainability have a place within your presidential agenda?

Josh Krichefski: 100 per cent. Sustainability is a huge part of the IPA. There's a huge amount of great work being done. I wanted to focus the agenda on people. The IPA will continue to work towards sustainability. Same with all of our agencies. For instance, the company that I work for GroupM, we've got a huge focus on responsible investment and sustainability. I know other groups have got similar agendas. That's not going away. I purposely focused it on people because I think it's a really important thing to be focusing on right now.

CS : When it comes to DE&I, it is clear that diversity in leadership is quite low. How do you intend to tackle this?

Josh Krichefski: My feeling is that that's right. Diversity at the senior level is lacking. We've seen this in the data that's come through the IPA census recently that we are getting better at hiring diverse talent from ethnic minorities across the industry. So that's a thumbs up in terms of improvement. We're seeing more women in leadership positions than we have done in the past. But I don't think we're brilliant at bringing people from all diverse backgrounds up through the ranks of our agencies.

And I think that's not because we don't want to. We have an unrealistic view on what inclusion really looks like in our businesses. So if you asked any agency leader, they tell you that that they're aiming to run an inclusive culture and business. But we're coming from a world where we don't really understand what that looks like. And we don't really understand the experience of diverse talent in our agencies. There's a lot of training and good inclusive practices that we're starting to learn about more and more year after year. And we've adopted in our business, some really strong allyship training and conscious inclusion for managers, and that's definitely helped. But as soon as you take your eye off the ball or if you're not investing in this stuff, it just falls away, because we're talking about kind of systemic change, which requires a real focus. It is an agenda item under my presidency. We want to create an inclusion inclusivity hub, where we can highlight where all the best training and inclusive practices are, surface them and make them accessible to all of our member agencies.

As an industry, inclusion and diversity practice is something that should really unite us. And I think that we need to surface all the best practices, share them with each other, and try and make it more commonplace. It is critical for the success of our industry moving forward.

CS: Your entire agenda is all-around kindness, around people, around collaboration. The language that you use, is about enabling and facilitating people. You also have a reputation of being very kind, generous, and ultimately, a nice man. But are you prepared to fight for the advertising industry?

Josh Krichefski: I don't think you can be a successful agency leader without being a fighter. We are in a fiercely competitive industry and so I am a fiercely competitive person, and I am a fighter. And I will always fight. If you asked any of my colleagues or any of my clients, I fight for them. I fight for our agency. And yeah, as President, I'm here prepared to be fighting for our industry.

CS: What would you want your legacy to be Josh?

Josh Krichefski: I want the things that I talked about - around inclusivity, mental health, a strong thriving workforce, and an industry that people look at externally and say I want to be part of that. I'm not saying that's gonna be my legacy. I think we all have a responsibility to play. But I certainly hope that in these two years I have (as the IPA president) that we create a real platform that enables us to achieve those three things in a meaningful and sustainable way. And I hope that, together, we can make that happen.

Josh Krichefski's full speech, followed by the Q&A


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