IPA centenary looks to the past for hope for the future

In 1917 the guns from the Battle of the Somme could still probably heard in southern England when the UK ad agency trade association the IPA was formed (the battle began in 1916 but went on for 141 days). What’s the connection? The IPA was formed to help the Government with Great War propaganda.

So UK adland’s most high profile body has seen a few changes in in its time, a cause for reflection (as outgoing IPA president Tom Knox pointed out the other evening) as the ad world and others fret about Brexit, Trump, arguments over transparency et al.

To celebrate its centenary the IPA, supported by Channel 4 and Google, is celebrating advertising’s contribution to “British social, cultural and economic life” with the Festival of British Advertising from March 9-12 at the Old Truman Brewery in the 21st century’s version of Soho, Brick Lane in Shoreditch.

Among the turns are knights of the realm Alan Parker and Ridley Scott (below), who both made their name in ads before moving to feature films; novelist Fay Weldon, who toiled at Ogilvy in one of its earlier incarnations, and Cindy Gallop who needs no introduction. There’s also a bespoke comedy show from Adam Buxton and various politicos and Saatchi types on advertising and politics.

It’s quite reasonable for such an event to look back (it is a centenary) but you can’t help noticing that the real creative stars are the likes of Scott and Parker who gave up ads years ago having made their names working at or for CDP back in the 1960’s and’70s.

In living memory (mine anyway) the IPA has gone from being a rather pompous and out-of-touch outfit (it used to ban members from soliciting each others’ business, until the Saatchi brothers drove a coach and horses through this comforting if unrealistic notion). These days it’s a rather useful albeit sometimes quiescent body.

Tickets for the Festival of Advertising are available from the IPA.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.