News & Views


by Contagious Team

Stronger agency/client relationships encouraged at UK ad agency trade body's inaugural hackathon-style event

'Our confidence is not as high as it used to be so we're trying to address that with the ADAPT programme,' said IPA president and founding partner of VCCP, Ian Priest, at the first 'Adaptathon' event staged by the ad agency trade body in London on 3 October. Priest added: 'We've run the same business model for decades and need to reshape it to adapt to the evolving industry in which we're working.' There will be four more Adaptathons over the next 18 months.

The format for Thursday's event, hosted by BBC TV and Radio 4 Presenter, Evan Davis, was inspired by hackathons where delegates are invited to suggest ideas for the greater good. The theme for the day reinforced Priest's agenda of 'Adapt for better commercial creativity', with a strong emphasis on collaboration and improving existing agency/client relationships as opposed to being what Priest described as 'pitch-tastic'.

To demonstrate the power of such long-term relationships, Cilla Snowball CBE, group chairman and group chief executive of AMV BBDO in London and Gavin Patterson, CEO of UK telco BT, took to the stage to reflect on their 19-year partnership. Snowball said: 'A strong client agency relationship has to be bigger than the relationship between the two people at the top. We check the quality of it and we fix it if something's going wrong. We love working on BT's business, we love the people, the culture and the product. And if you love something you don't want to dump it.'

Craig Inglis, marketing director at UK retailer John Lewis, and James Murphy, CEO of London-based agency adam&eveDDB, were also invited to reflect on their relationship which Inglis described as 'happily dysfunctional'. He added: 'Any client should want their agency to thrive. We're in it together: clients and agencies will have tough moments in the trenches where you need to be shoulder-to-shoulder with someone and go over the top with them.'

Brainjuicer founder John Kearon provided an entertaining alternative to brand briefs, encouraging clients to ask their agencies to 'make my brand famous'. Showing examples including Three's Dancing Pony and Cadbury Gorilla, he implored advertising to become more emotionally led. He dismissed the role that market research has traditionally played in testing campaigns as 'post-rational analysis'.

The psychologist Julie Hay encouraged people to see change as an opportunity for growth. Using the lexicon of Transactional Analysis (TA) she identified different personality types and suggested some of the combinations that could be productive for agencies and clients. 

Continuing the stronger relationships theme, the IPA has enlisted a TA-trained relationship counsellor Alison Bone to hold consultations, workshops and drop-in surgeries to help IPA members and their clients create better relationships. The IPA is offering up to five free private sessions in return for participation in a controlled experiment which will be written up anonymously. 

For more information, visit the IPA website.