IPA president Julian Douglas: my end of year report card on advertising's progress

After a crucial 12 months for the advertising and marketing industry, IPA president and vice-chairman of VCCP Julian Douglas looks back and considers the year’s wins and losses.

Back in March, I launched my 10X Accelerate Opportunity agenda at the IPA. I set out a challenge to make incrementalism our enemy. To seize this discontinuous moment and finally tackle some of the long-standing issues we face as an industry and society at large. So, to see how we performed in this first year, here is my 2021 end of year 10X report.

2021 was the year that started with the schools closing on the very first day of term, dealing advertising industry parents and carers the difficulty of juggling the day job with homeschooling at zero notice.

It was the year that the ad industry went back to school too. Making the best of a challenging time in lockdown, we saw record numbers of people signing up for courses at the IPA. We launched our D&I qualification in January 2021 and it has been the most successful IPA qualification launch of all time with over 800 people studying in its first year. Top marks.

There was a massive acceleration in the number of people completing the IPA Excellence Diploma in Business, delivered by LSE (MBA Essentials). So much in fact, that we went way beyond the target of 10 times the total uptake of 2020, instead seeing over 20 times as many people taking the course.

In partnership with the Advertising Association, we launched a new qualification in November, in line with COP26, to help the industry hit AdNetZero by 2030. We took 140 bookings in the first fortnight, demonstrating the high level of commitment to grow our understanding and embed sustainable goals into our work and working practices.

19 agencies were awarded IPA Effectiveness Accreditation, leading the way by demonstrating their effectiveness culture. Congratulations to Anything is POssible, BBH, DentsuX, Hunterlodge Advertising, Leo Burnett, MediaCom, Medialab Group, MG OMD, Running Total, Talon Outdoor, The Corner, The Kite Factory, The&Partnership and m/Six, The7Stars, True, True B2B, VCCP, Wunderman Thompson and Zenith.

With a fantastic Growth Conference and Effweek to boot, this has been a brilliant industry performance in extremely difficult circumstances.

This year the industry finally got into gaming and the world went Meta. We saw huge advances and rapid increases in the adoption of virtual production as shoots continued to be impacted by lockdowns. As agencies better understand and explore the opportunities it affords we can expect to see the benefits in output as well as environmental impact in the year ahead.

The third and final aspect of my 10x agenda is a series of experiments to prove the hypothesis that advertising’s powers of insight, creativity and collaboration better equips it than the purely logic-minded consultants to tackle the biggest societal issues.

The first of the Think 10X experiments brought together an unlikely alliance of the 10 big supermarkets and their 10 ad agencies to create a campaign to tackle food waste in the UK. The 10 agencies were up for the challenge. But sadly, it turned out the 10 supermarkets were not. While the desire was there, the barriers of effort, bandwidth and potential lost revenue ultimately proved too great to overcome. So sadly, the first 10X experiment did not quite fly.

I am delighted to report much happier news on the second Think 10X initiative that I mentioned in this column last month: tackling the recruitment crisis in the hospitality industry. The goal is to raise £5m to create the biggest hospitality recruitment ad campaign the UK has ever seen by raising £10 per employee from every hospitality company.

Three weeks into the fundraise and already we have seen interest from the Mayor of London’s office, we have raised just over £500k from the industry operators and suppliers including Hilton, Butlin’s and Welcome Break, plus we are in final talks with Hospitality and Tourism Skills Board, which advises and works with the Government’s Hospitality & Tourism Councils on training and skills matters, with a view to becoming recognised as the Board’s preferred partners on recruitment. This should help unlock further funding as the Board is in discussion with all devolved administrations on public sector funding for recruitment campaigns to take us towards our goal.

Huge thanks go to the cross-ad industry team, this time comprising top talent from Forever Beta, Ogilvy, Ogilvy Consulting and VCCP. Matt Waksman, co-author of the IPA Effectiveness Gold winning paper on The Army has devised a strategy to reframe hospitality and deposition competitive industries. Paulo Areas, Robin Gadsby and the full arsenal of Forever Beta, brilliantly marshalled by May Reinholdsson, are unleashing their creative firepower. VCCP’s Emily Stovold and Myles Cryan are managing the project (with over 30 separate client organisations and counting) and as ever, Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland and Sam Tatam are bringing behavioral science brilliance. So more to come on this one, but the signs are looking good.

I would like to end the year, and this article, by wishing you all a wonderful and well deserved holiday, a merry Christmas and the very best of health, wealth and happiness for 2022. See you on the other side.

Julian Douglas is president of the IPA and international chief executive and vice-chairman of VCCP.