In challenging economic circumstances, strong brands are both a rock and road-map for businesses, and the advertising agencies that fuel their growth should be more indispensable than ever to NI PLC. This is the call made by Valerie Ludlow, CEO of ASG & Partners and newly appointed Northern Ireland Chair for professional body, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), in her inaugural speech at the annual IPA Belfast Members' Reception.
In her new role, Valerie Ludlow will work to represent the collective needs and interests of Northern Irish member agencies in the IPA. To achieve this, as she outlined in her address, requires an overhaul of the image and reputation of the industry, which was recently revealed to be one of the least trusted professions in the UK.
She said the advertising industry must focus on championing the benefits and added value that professional agencies bring to transform their clients’ businesses. She said, "One of the most important professional standards of the IPA is the measurement of advertising effectiveness. The work we do yields results for our clients and we can all prove it. Yet advertising is still viewed as a discretionary spend or an optional extra for businesses, rather than as a core facilitator in transforming businesses. In the challenging times ahead, investment in strategic advertising will become more important and needs to be considered less of a gamble. We must better convince clients that working with a professional, experienced and expert IPA agency is the only sane choice to protect their brand and keep their business buoyant."
She said the industry must do more to build a collective confidence in the skills and expertise within local agencies, "Advertising agencies are a power-packed team of professional experts. As IPA agencies, our staff benefit from training and professional development that is the best of its kind in the world. The insight, strategic and creative talent that is unique to IPA agencies in Northern Ireland has never been more vital: we use these skills to help brands to make the emotional connections to build relationships with their consumers."
Ludlow, whose own marketing career began in consumer research is a self-confessed "data-geek". She said the challenges brought by digital technology also provide the greatest opportunity for professional agencies to gain a competitive edge. "Technology is fuelling the 'what, when, where and how' of how we are consuming, with a myriad of data and insights at our fingertips, yet both clients and agencies are failing to adapt. This is one of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate the value of our expertise and driving this digital transformation will be one of my key commitments in my term in office."
"IPA members understand that short-termism is never effective – so I hope these initial challenges will form a new foundation for IPA Northern Ireland which can be taken up and evolved over the coming years by successive Chairs to ensure that the IPA will grow in relevance within the Northern Ireland marketplace and that our agencies will be recognised for the stellar leadership we offer within this sector."
Valerie Ludlow’s biography:
Valerie Ludlow is CEO, ASG & Partners and an award-winning marketer with 17 years of experience in strategy development, consulting and execution within social, digital and traditional marketing disciplines for both B2B and B2C audiences. During her career, Ludlow has worked both in agency and on the client-side across the UK, Ireland, Europe and the USA.
Ludlow is a natural born connector. She focuses on finding ways to help marketers orchestrate new ways of working effectively - bringing the right people around the table to use a modern think tank process to work through brand challenges and ultimately build the most effective campaign solutions.
Ludlow has been part of the NI group for a number of years and is now a MIPA.