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A Brief History of the IPA

A brief history of the IPA and its origins tracing back to the early 20th century as well as an original, rediscovered video providing a 'Glance at the work of the IPA' of 1957.

Early days

The first trade association for UK advertising agencies was set up at the beginning of the 20th century in response to the launch of a trade body for advertisers. At the end of 1900, a group of manufacturers had formed the Advertisers’ Protection Society to ensure that advertisers got good value for the money they paid media proprietors for carrying their advertisements. (The APS later enlarged its scope, and in 1920 changed its name to the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers - or ISBA as it is known today.)

In response to this move, a group of leading advertising agents came together to create their own body. Called the Incorporated Society of Advertising Agencies (ISAA), it unfortunately lasted for only three years before severe inter-agency competition and the greater economic power of advertisers and media proprietors forced it to close.


The Impact of War

Although the ISAA had only lasted a short while, it had provided an opportunity for agencies to develop contacts with each other, and this made it easier for them to respond to the unique pressures of the First World War and a growing appreciation that advertising could play a valuable role in the war effort. The agencies did so by forming an unofficial group, which, as a limited company in 1917, became known as the Association of British Advertising Agents (ABAA).

According to its President — LO Johnson — speaking in 1924, "The Government was quick to recognise the great help, which was now at its service…….The Association ….. placed the resources of its members at the disposal of several departments, particularly the War Savings Department and the National Service Department."

In simple terms, this early incarnation of the IPA was mobilised to help produce and coordinate wartime propaganda


The 1920s

The end of hostilities in 1918 brought its own difficulties. Established agencies found themselves in a price war with cheaper competitors and in an effort to differentiate their members and build recognition of the greater value they offered their clients, the ABAA set itself to provide discipline and coordination in the agency business in the face of "persons who without any supporting organisation or proper experience, were getting work as advertising agents by using their commission from the media proprietors solely to undercut the experienced and established advertising agencies".

To this end, it embarked on a long campaign to persuade the proprietors of newspapers and periodicals to allow commission on advertising to competent agents only - a policy whose success was to last for almost 80 years.


A Royal Charter?

Seeking to step up a gear and obtain “professional” recognition, in 1925 the ABAA decided to explore the possibilities of obtaining a Royal Charter. To this end, a formal petition was presented to the Privy Council at the end of July. It did not, however, find favour - and in April 1926, the Association was informed that its bid had not been accepted.

No official explanation for this refusal was ever given by the Privy Council (although it was asked) - and while theories were put forward at the time that the organisation’s "functions may have been too narrow" and that "no limited companies had hitherto been granted this type of ‘professional’ Royal Charter" - the real reason may have laid more in the prejudices of civil servants towards the concept of advertising per se.


Finally, the Association becomes an Institute

However, not to be downcast, at the same General Meeting at which news of the failure to gain chartered status was recorded, the ABAA decided to transform itself into an Institute.

On 7th April 1927, the Institute of Incorporated Practitioners in Advertising came into being - although it did not formally succeed the ABAA until the two organisations had held their respective last and first General Meetings on 16th of May in that year.

The IIPA name lasted until 1954 when it was shortened to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising – or the IPA - as it is known today.


A Glance at the work of the IPA in 1957

This recently rediscovered video provides a fascinating insight into an IPA already 40 years old...

Last updated 24/01/2017

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