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IPA President Tom Knox’s Inaugural Address, Wednesday 29th April 2015, The Rosewood Hotel

“Here for good”


First of all, a big thank you Ian, from me, for that kind introduction.

But also on behalf of all of us for the great job you’ve done over the last two years and for all your fantastic energy and enthusiasm.

Your ADAPT agenda helped us engage with our clients and made us take a long, hard look at how we need to change to meet the challenges of the future in 5 Key areas.

Your legacy is secured through the relationship management training programme we’re working on with ISBA.

In keeping with your ADAPT theme the IPA has taken to 3D printing to create this memento of your presidency.

Thank you, Ian; you’re going to be a very hard act to follow.

Lunch, as my colleagues will testify, is normally my absolute comfort zone; it’s a rare field of professional expertise.

Unfortunately this lunch is a little different, what with the speech and everything but I can assure you it will be much shorter than what I would define as a proper lunch.

This speech presents my agenda and I’m very grateful to all the many Council members, past Presidents and friends who have encouraged and contributed to it.

I would also like to acknowledge my debt to two wonderful men, both sadly no longer with us, David Abbott and Winston Fletcher, without whose kindness and mentoring I would certainly not be standing here about to give this speech.

It’s a tremendous honour to be your President and I am keenly aware of the responsibility that comes with representing you, the membership, especially as my term coincides with the centenary of the IPA.

I’m proud to say I have worked in advertising for nearly 30 of those 100 years.

I’m proud because I believe that advertising can be a noble profession. What we do is fundamentally of great value and good.

Good for businesses and the economy. Good for consumers and society and good for the people who make a living from it.

I want my agenda to demonstrate and celebrate not just the economic but also the societal benefits of advertising; the values as well as the value of what we do.

In so doing we will ensure our long term future and we will continue to attract the best talent into our agencies.

But, of course, there are plenty of people outside this room ready to attack advertising.

“Advertising is objectionably consumerist, selfish, driven by commercial considerations which conflict with wider society considerations like family and decency.”

That was Journalist Peter Oborne at Adweek Europe.

I disagree with this assumption that commercial considerations are inevitably at odds with decent society.

Our values and our positive role in society matter more than ever.

Why do I say this? Two reasons.

First the financial crisis:

Part of the fallout from the crisis is an on-going discussion about how capitalism elevated one aspect of our human nature above all others – asserting that we are individuals out to maximise our material self-interest.

We in advertising are often seen as the poster boys for this - making society more materially focused, making people want things they can’t afford and don’t need.

What people are now saying, post-crash, is we must recognise we are more than just consumers, that we exist in relationships, in communities and as part of society.

We have values and ideals beyond our material well being.

Reason two for the importance of our values and our wider role in society is the impact of technology:

The ubiquity of the Internet and the rise of social media have changed the market we operate in. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.

People know more about the brands they buy and the companies behind those brands.

Choices are made on the basis of whether or not brands keep the promises they make (as has always been the case) but also now on their values and their wider contribution to society.

Because of all this, current business thinking demands that brands define a higher purpose (above and beyond ROI or profitability).

Three years ago I was fortunate to hear John Mackey, the CEO of Wholefoods, speak at SXSW. I thoroughly recommend his book “Conscious Capitalism’ which eloquently makes the higher purpose argument.

This is not hippy do-gooding. It’s a business imperative. Brands that do this succeed, as Mackey’s co- author, Professor Raj Sisodia proves, showing that a basket of 28 ‘conscious businesses’ outperformed the S&P 500 over a period of 15 years by a factor of 10.5.

We can play a pivotal role in this- we make promises on behalf of brands.

Our purpose is to apply our collective creativity to helping brands articulate and fulfil their potential.

But if we want to be trusted to do this we need to be clear about our own values and our own contribution to society.

This is crucially important when it comes to talent- the lifeblood of our businesses.

If we communicate the positive contribution of the advertising industry, we will enhance our ability to attract the brightest and best people into it.

The Millenials, who are the future, are values- driven iodealists. (48% deliberately seek out employers whose corporate responsibility behaviour reflects their own values according to PWC).

Research by Global tolerance found 61% of the Millennial generation only want to work for organisations that do social good.

To attract and retain the best talent we have to tell our story in a way that inspires them and we have to create careers and working environments that will nurture and fulfil them.

And we have a fantastic story to tell. Nothing is more exciting than the power of creative thinking to transform businesses.

So what we going to do? What’s the practical agenda?

My first commitment is that The IPA will draw up a Code of Conduct (For obvious reasons I won’t be following in Ian’s footsteps on the acronym front.)

We will codify the best practice that already exists among our members. We will invite people from outside to participate.

This is normal practice for a professional trade body. The process of developing the code will encourage lively debate and a positive discussion about how we ensure the highest standards within our industry.

Committing to fulfilling our obligations to all our stakeholders will also raise the bar for how those stakeholders (especially clients) treat us.

Let’s take one very small but significant example- if we are prepared to pay our suppliers in reasonable time, say 60 days, surely our clients should be able to make the same undertaking to us?

Earlier I said we were good for clients and the economy, good for consumers and society and good for our people.

Taking those three “Goods” in turn:

Good for clients and the economy:

We should do more to broadcast what an important, digitally led part of the UK’s economy we are, a huge and growing employer and a leader within the creative industries. Advertising underpins £100bn of UK GDP and we support 550,000 jobs.

The IPA Effectiveness awards are an international benchmark for making the case for the economic contribution of advertising.

We will create a new effectiveness award recognising commercial campaigns that have demonstrably added societal as well as economic value and have shown the virtuous link between the two (think Always ‘Like a girl” or Barclays “Life skills” or Dove “Campaign for real beauty”)

As part of the client agenda we will host a series of events about brands’ higher purposes.

We’ll look at how all of the diverse agencies in membership have applied thinking and creativity to unlocking those brand purposes. In many cases the outputs will be far removed from what has traditionally been seen as advertising.

The Second ‘Good’-Good for Consumers and society:

Never before have we known as much about consumer behaviour, nor had as many powerful media tools at our disposal.

With this comes great responsibility. I would like to see us demonstrate that we are taking this responsibility seriously and ensuring that our clients are too.

At the LEAD summit in January Richard Eyre said the old argument that ‘if something was legal to sell it was fine to advertise it’ was no longer good enough.

It’s also no longer good enough to say we merely reflect society- we should set ourselves a higher goal and realise a more progressive ambition.

To this end, we will explore 5 key topics relating to advertising’s role in society and the outputs will inform the Code of Conduct:

1.The depiction of women, and diversity in advertising.

2.The use of big data and the implications for privacy.

3.The rise of content, “native advertising” and the blurring of the lines between marketing and editorial.

4.The cultural contribution of advertising as one of the creative industries.

5.The perception and reputation of the advertising Industry and its practitioners.

Finally, Good for our people:

We will continue the excellent work that’s been done to professionalise the workforce.

Until now the IPA has been mainly a corporate membership body, but we will encourage personal membership through a qualifications- based points system. This year 153 people will qualify for MIPA status. We want personal membership to be seen as a vital designation of professional expertise.

I am delighted to announce today that the IPA is working towards achieving Chartered status and we hope that this landmark will be achieved before the centenary (thus buffing Paul Bainsfair’s Knighthood credentials).

The IPA has always promoted diversity and gender equality in advertising. Progress has been made- but there is still a long way to go.

The percentage of the IPA employed base coming from the BAME communities has steadily increased over time but at 13% we still don’t reflect the composition of the nation as a whole.

While the gender split is neutral overall, women still only account for 25% of those at the highest level of seniority.

That percentage is even lower in creative roles. This needs to change and the pace of change needs to be upped.

Change will only come if we are more transparent about how we are doing, so in partnership with Campaign, we will ask member agencies to contribute to a league table, published annually, which will list the gender splits by

department and seniority as well as showing the percentage of BAME employees in each agency. 

Again, this is not “a nice to do” –it’s a necessity if we want to remain relevant to our clients, to society and to the people we need to attract into the business. 

Under Paul’s direction the IPA has developed a long- term strategy based on three core pillars of activity: 

1.What agencies do (Creativity, media and effectiveness)

2.How agencies make their money (Commercial)

3. Who they need to do it well (Talent) 

This agenda will inform and enhance the IPA’s work across all three of these areas. It also aligns with The Advertising Association’s Responsibility Agenda.

We should be proud of what we do and of the contribution we make. 

I want us to be positive about the overall impact of the advertising industry and for us to show that we take our responsibilities seriously. 

Bill Bernbach wrote: 

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

Over the next two years we will re-assert, and secure for the future, advertising’s role as a culturally, socially and economically enriching force for good.

I believe that making the bold statement that we are ‘here for good’ is a timely and fitting way to mark the start of the second century of the IPA.


Last updated 29/04/2015

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