Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom asks how we can better define what we do as a profession.
I think that the IPA should change its name. It’s a massively well-respected institution, don’t get me wrong. And I have no problem at all with it being an Institute, or referencing Practitioners. It’s the A word I have a problem with... Advertising.
The job we do isn’t just about advertising. The job we do is about growing clients’ business, not about creating advertising. If you ask anyone who works in a media agency whether their friends and family understand what they do, they will almost certainly say no, not really.
Because the outside world, who mostly don’t give our industry a second thought, thinks working in media means that you write for the Guardian or Buzzfeed (depending on their generation). And if you say you work in advertising, the outside world thinks you make TV ads or create posters, perhaps rub shoulders with Don Draper. Well, that’s not the only thing we do in agencies, you’d try to say. Not least because the channels to market have grown exponentially over the last few years, but more importantly because those traditional, well-known channels don’t always guarantee a client’s business growth.
However, it would seem we are likely to concur with our friends and family when it comes to submitting work to the IPA Effectiveness Awards – TV and big posters right? No. These big budget media and creative strategies are not the only winners of IPA Effectiveness Awards – which are generally and rightly recognised as the most rigorous awards in our industry. I’ve had the honour (and it is a huge honour) of being asked to be Deputy Convenor of the IPA Effectiveness Awards 2018, which are open to demonstrations of proof from all forms of communications activity, whether it is product innovation; experiential; UX; sponsorship; content marketing; performance marketing; digital experiences; internal comms; or traditional comms delivered through just one channel to a multitude of channels. Neither does it matter if the budget or your agency is big or small - if you have delivered a return for your client, then you should enter.
So if it was down to me (and it isn’t) I’d change the name of the organisation to the Institute of Practitioners of Client Growth.
If you have grown your client’s business this year, whatever part of the industry you operate in, this is your chance for recognition and fame. It is the most rigorous testing of the quality of your work. You can expect the evidence that you present to be interrogated. You can expect your story to be examined for logical flaws and strategic rigour. And if you are the recipient of the award you can expect not just glory and good wishes, but for the case study to become part of the overall learnings that the IPA brilliantly delivers on behalf of our industry. This body of effective work is something you can trust. It has been through the gamut of a judging panel that knows what it is doing, knows what good looks like and who will not be swayed by what is fashionable, or wrapped up in incomprehensible jargon.
This body of work will continue to help us with our overall core responsibility of growing our clients’ business. I actually raised this proposed name change in a meeting a few years ago in the august walls of Belgrave Square. As you might imagine it was given short shrift.
Don’t make me have to raise it again please practitioners. Enter the Effectiveness Awards if you’ve done work that you’re proud of. Whatever part of our industry you consider yourself in.
Sue Unerman is Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom and Deputy Convenor of judges at the IPA Effectiveness Awards.