"It is time to recognise our industry – and more importantly the individuals within it – for the resilience, positivity, courage and creativity you have shown in the face of the COVID crisis and its impact on all our lives." This was the rallying cry from IPA President Nigel Vaz in his virtual IPA New Year address.
His speech to members and audiences beyond acknowledges that, outside of war time when the IPA was founded, there can be few IPA presidents whose tenure has coincided with twin shocks as significant as a global pandemic and Brexit. But while that has inevitably thrown up challenges and strains, we must take heart from the many, impressive ways the industry has responded.
From transitioning from an office-based working culture to one of working from home via Zoom or Teams. To agency leaders who have had to make tough choices in the face of financial uncertainty, who have had to pivot to new ways of leading their teams, of maintaining agency culture and of servicing clients. And to agencies who have heard, empathised and quickly responded to the changing needs of consumers, communities and clients.
It has been moving to see brands forge new kinds of connections with their customers and communities: to provide emotional support, to act as much-needed pillars of trust, to amplify support for NHS and key workers, and to communicate the new ways in which companies serve customer needs during times of crisis.
In acknowledgement of these challenges, Vaz asserts that his 'Reimagine agenda' launched at the start of his two-year tenure in Spring 2019, in which he called upon agencies "reassess, to reorient and renew", has never been more vital.
"Reimagine" says Vaz, "is about understanding what you do best, how those qualities must adapt in a changing world, and what we must transform in order to best partner with our clients for growth. If ever there were a time to focus on making that change, it is now: we owe it to our clients, our agencies and our people."
In summing up, Vaz called upon the results of the latest IPA Bellwether Report, published today which, while currently bleak, point to green shoots for our industry and wider society, fuelled by the vaccination programme.
"Ours is an industry full of optimists and believers. And as we look forward to the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and immunisation programmes nationwide and globally, we look forward too, to what the future may bring. I applaud you all again for having got this far – for enduring and adapting under COVID. It has been a visceral reminder of our shared humanity but also of our perseverance and ingenuity."