IPA president Sarah Golding's maiden speech outlines tech agenda to help ad industry learn from the machines

Sarah Golding

Issuing her agenda to the advertising industry in the UK as IPA president, succeeding Tom Knox after two years, Sarah Golding, chief executive of CHI & Partners issued her agenda for her time in charge, discussing the need for the industry to better understand and work with technology and stating her intention to help the industry understand the opportunities better. Below is the speech ver batum that she made during the annual presidents lunch.

Thank you Tom, and hello everyone. I’d like to start by saying that this is quite the scariest speech I’ve ever given.

I’m not just scared because I’m talking to this audience of peers and industry greats but also because I actually have very little idea what it is I’m talking about. Those who know me will recognise this isn’t anything new, but do bear with me on this one.

First a few words of thanks for Tom Knox, not just on behalf of the IPA, but the whole advertising community. He has put important subjects at the heart of the debate, celebrating how the industry is a force for good commercially and for society, and above all putting his powerful voice behind the diversity cause, which I support wholeheartedly.

And Tom certainly has a powerful voice. He’s a grown up - tall, wise and experienced. He seems naturally presidential. I, on the other hand, have a voice like Orville and can hardly see over most of the podiums I’ve ever stood at.

But I am beyond thrilled to have been elected IPA President and am honored to be standing here today. Scared, but deeply honored.

Before I get to my agenda for the next two years, I’d like to touch upon how and why I got here. I never had any grand plan to one day take this role. I’m not a big joiner. I don’t sit on endless committees or lead the neighbourhood watch. I’m far happier doing my bit at work, then taking myself off home to watch telly.

But you know advertising has been really good to me. It took me in when I had no other career in mind. It looked after me when I moved down from darkest Blackburn. I have made lifelong friends in the industry, and it even helped me meet my husband.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not standing here because I feel I owe the industry a debt of gratitude. I am here because I genuinely care about the advertising world, because it is such a big part of my life.

So for the next two years you are all stuck with me doing my best for the industry I love.

And these next two years are important. They are the first two years of the next century of the IPA. The recent centenary celebrations have been a great reminder of theincredible impact advertising has made commercially and culturally on British life. So it is vital that I start the industry off on the journey of the next century, with an agenda that reflects the inevitable path that adventure will take.

Put simply, in the last 100 years we all enjoyed laughing at the Smash robots from the future. In the next 100 years we will be working with them. And the IPA has to play a big part in making sure we are all ready for that.

When Tom was giving me his thoughts on how to develop my agenda he said: “For goodness sake Goldie choose a subject you know well and share your passion for it.”

But I have ended up choosing a subject that I know very little about and am rather intimidated by. And I have done so for a very simple reason. I want to use myself as a test case for the success of my presidency. If, after the next two years, I feel I have discovered a new confidence about the potential of automation in our industry, then Ithink others will have done so too.

Put another way, I intend not to lead from the front but to learn from the front, about a subject that is too important for our whole industry not to embrace.

The machines are coming and we are going to be ready.

Now, being ready doesn’t mean fighting for our right to exist versus the robots. I am not trying to build a wallagainst a Terminator-style judgment day.

But equally I don’t think that as creative industries we are immune because creativity cannot be reduced to an algorithm. In fact McKinsey have recently pronounced that robots are now capable of accomplishing many cognitive activities such as making judgments and sensing emotion. To be fair that’s more than many humans I know…

So, to be clear, we are not all doomed to be replaced by machines, but neither are we too creative to be left alone. Instead we need to see the opportunities to grow alongside our new automated colleagues, and embracethe new tools to be even better at what we do.

For example, virtual reality will change the ways we tell stories, moving from single-thread narratives toimmersive multi-plot adventures. And this is high on our clients’ agendas. In a recent survey by Oracle, 80% of marketers expect to provide customer experiences through virtual reality within the next 3 years.

Then there’s augmented reality that gives us the opportunity to add our brands digital footprints to the real world around us, bringing bricks and clicks together like never before.

Both of these are currently in their infancy. Pokémon Go has given AR its first big platform, while VR’s is yet to come. But we all know that the possibilities these two technologies have created will be huge for advertisers, creatives, media planners, UX designers and content-creators. And it’s up to us to turn these emerging technologies into the new tools of our trade.

And it’s up to the IPA to help us all do that.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the theme for my agenda is simple: THE MAGIC AND THE MACHINES

In February of this year Bill Gates said “It is really bad if people have more fear about what innovation is going to do than they have enthusiasm. That means they won’t shape it for the positive things it can do.”

I would like my presidency to help create a new enthusiasm for what machines can do for member agencies. And that starts with how we can harness them to help us create magic.

And let’s be clear, what we make is often thoroughly magical isn’t it? Joseph Schumpeter, the acclaimed economist talked of the ‘alchemy of advertising’. The ability to turn base metals into gold. Or in his example, confound economic theory by creating demand when there should be none.

Too often we are so caught up in new models, new entrants and new payment terms we forget the magical things our industry can do.

We can change beliefs, behaviours and businesses.

We can create crazes, challenge conventions and empower causes.

We can sell more boxes and save more lives than almost any other industry on the planet.

We have magic powers. We are all magicians, and the machines represent a new box of tricks for us to use.

Just think what we might be able to learn from Emmy? Who is Emmy? She’s a computer program that can compose 5,000 pieces of original music in a morning.

What might we all learn from Albert? And who is this Albert? Albert is the AI platform that lingerie retailer Cosabella is using to revolutionise their search and social marketing, and who is more than tripling their ROI.

And what can we all learn from Samuel. And again who is Samuel I hear you cry? Well he’s just a bloke at M&C Saatchi but a bloke who has led their team in pioneering AI-driven outdoor advertising.

So far these are early experiments but they are exciting and meaningful. I want the IPA to encourage more experimentation among our member agencies.

To this end I want to create a new platform for education, collaboration, and inspiration.

And that will be called IPAi

Do you see what I did there? IPAi

At the heart of the IPAi initiative will be The IPAiApplied Training Programme.

Available and accessible to everyone this will cover topics including the history and hype around artificial intelligence, where it is heading for the marketing and advertising industries, and how to navigate the tools and APIs available to the technical teams at agencies. These will be intensive modules that will open up the whole subject for many of us.

To help inspire our members further, we will be launching our very own South-by-South West-One. We will be bringing the most relevant thinkers to present their ideas to us here in London. I am particularly delighted that among them will be Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, who sees a future where we all adopt a universal faith in the power of algorithms.

But as well as bringing the most inspirational minds to Belgrave Square, we will be taking our industry’s achievements out to the world, emphasising theimportance of the Creative Tech sector, in the same way that Fintech and Healthtech are already well established.

To achieve this we will be working with NESTA to come up with a definition and quantification of the value of Creative Tech.

And we will be playing a key part of London Technology Week, where we will have a whole day dedicated to Creative Tech and I will chair our industry panel.

I want the IPAi initiative to last well beyond my tenure and to be a constant champion of the power of our industry to make magic with machines.

The second point on my agenda is all about the numbers. I want more members to be more comfortable with the numbers of marketing and advertising, seeing them as a real source of meaningful inspiration.

I call this section of initiatives and actions MAGIC WITH NUMBERS.

While many marketers see data as a source of transformation for their industry, too many in ours view it with suspicion.

But I want to end the fear. I want to shine a bright light on how the best uses of data can be creatively inspiring, culturally disruptive and commercially impactful. Magical in fact.

For example, data won for Farage, Johnson and Trump. The brains behind these election surprises found new ways to use data to drive an individuals emotions, not just trigger a short-term action. Imagine those skills harnessed by advertisers and their agencies. Well, that’s exactly the magic I intend to help us achieve.

To this end we will start by running a number of events through the 44 Club to engage our younger members with this new reality.

We will also be publishing two new think-pieces from Les Binet and Peter Field, starting with ‘Buying Behaviour in the Digital World’. These are being produced in partnership with Google and will reach a wide audience.

It remains a key priority of the IPA to build an effectiveness culture in member agencies. To achieve this we have to gain a more coherent understanding of how different marketing approaches measure performance, in the short and long term. Because it’s pretty hard to make magic if you don’t know how the trick is meant to work.

So, I am asking that the next President’s Prize, at the 2018 IPA Effectiveness Awards goes to the paper which most clearly demonstrates the most effective use of data.

And I will also be opening this year’s Eff Week in October, which will have a particular focus on how to make sense of all the data now available to us.

But as well as gaining a better understanding of how data can contribute to making magic, it is imperative that our members understand the rules around its usage. Therefore we will be ensuring that all agencies are up to speed with the new data protection regulations that are coming into force from May 2018. A series of IPA webinars have been organized throughout this coming year, starting now.

But as I talk about data I must acknowledge there is the dark side that threatens our industry commercially and reputationally. A dark side that the IPA has to help protect us from.

So my third and final set of initiatives is focused on MONITORING THE MACHINES.

The advertising industry will be profoundly damaged if we are associated with the improper use of our client’s money. A study by the group I work for estimates that20% of the total $32bn spent on digital video and display advertising is being spent fraudulently. If a restaurant failed to bring 20% of the food you ordered, you wouldn’t go back in a hurry.

I applaud the initiative taken by Marc Pritchard at P&G to push technology brands to open up to independent ad verification, and I will be adding the voice of the IPA to these requests.

I am also encouraged by some of the efforts taken by Google to address the brand safety issues that plagued it in recent weeks. Particularly their agreement to work with outside companies to verify where ads appear on YouTube.

I will be interested to see how that plays out and I am determined that the IPA leads the industry in demanding solutions. The UK is arguably the most advanced large-scale digital market in the world. Over half of our adspend goes online, supporting some of the highest levels of e-commerce. That is why I call upon our partners at ISBA, the IAB and at the largest tech companies to come together with the IPA to redouble our efforts to clean up the digital media frontier.

So, to close, I want to go back to the essence of my agenda. The machines are coming and we are going to use them to make magic like we’ve never done before.

Magic that will make our creative work more compelling.

Our targeting more relevant.

And our story-telling more engaging.

Automation will change our working lives at every level in our industry. Before we know it the machines will do the competitive reviews, the legal checks, the contact reports, the image searches, and myriad other daily activities that are part of agency life.

And that will free us all to give more time to the creation of brilliant ideas, many of which will be brought to life using emerging technologies.

But only if we embrace the machines, enjoy the machines and trust the machines.

And that’s what my agenda is focused on achieving.

The magic and the machines, delivered through a fresh and unique inspirational and educational platform in IPAi.

The magic and the machines, encouraging us all to embrace data as a source of new creativity and more insightful targeting.

And the magic and machines, ensuring the robots don’t go rogue and damage the industry the IPA serves.

I acknowledge that automation is not going to happen overnight. McKinsey suggest that by 2055 around half of today’s work activities could be automated. But I am setting the IPA on course for the next 100 years, not just the next two.

I want this to feel like a new era for the IPA, which for most of my career has been focused on addressing weaknesses of ability, diversity and corporate standing.

But I want to take the IPA up a level, to look forwards, not just inwards.

The Advertising Association has shown that the export of advertising services is worth £4.1billion to the UK economy, and the Creative Industries have been selected as one of five key pillars in the Government’s post Brexit strategy. So I am determined that we be in amongst it with other leading industries, debating the topics that matter to us all, not just the specific issues in our category.

So the IPA will be more challenging and championing.

More future-facing and inspiring.

Bolder and braver.

Because the machines will change many things…but notthe dedication of all of our members to the business and brilliance of advertising.

The machines will be our new colleagues. And they will be the smartest, fastest, most incredible colleagues any of us has had. I can’t wait to start making magic with them.

I truly hope everyone here, and everyone back at the agencies you all represent will join me in writing this challenging but exciting first chapter of the next 100 years of the IPA story.

Thank you.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.

Come on in, it’s free.

This isn’t a paywall. It’s a freewall. We don’t want to get in the way of what you came here for, so this will only take a few seconds.