The Adaptathon blog: IPA president Ian Priest on getting involved in ADAPT

So, now the first Alliance Adaptathon is done, and we are rolling on with the ADAPT agenda. The others, covering Diversification, Agility, Profit and Talent, follow over the next 15 months.

I feel that the template we have created gives us a strong base from which to push on.

We had a fantastic day with our first event on October 3rd at Altitude at Millbank Tower, with over 175 participants from agencies, clients and intermediaries in attendance.

We set up what good looks like by pairing senior clients with their agency opposite numbers and getting them to talk about how their relationships worked.

We got everyone thinking with stimulating presentations from Brainjuicer’s John Kearon and psychotherapist Julie Hay, founder of Psychological Intelligence.  In different ways, both made us think about the importance and psychology and emotion, not just in the work we produce but in how we interact.

And then we turned multiple brainstorming sessions into real action points.

Overall, we reflected on how we work together and how to make it better. That is not the sort of thing that usually happens at industry get-togethers.

You can read a longer summary of the day and find out some of the ideas developed by participants here.

Common goal

I am convinced that, with my aim to create a culture that prizes extended client-agency relationships, we are pushing at an open door.

That was certainly the feedback I got, and we heard it from top-level clients like Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT, Tim Male of Lloyds Bank and Craig Inglis of John Lewis.

If there was a personal highlight, it was hearing Craig and James Murphy from adam&eveDDB cheerily admitting their relationship was ‘happily dysfunctional’.  That proves there’s no single way to nurture a successful relationship. 

The manner in which the mixed, cross-industry, groups got together to hack the future of relationships proves, however, that pursuing better relationships is a common goal.

They all understand the value that a long-term relationship creates, and how it feeds into better, more effective work – commercial creativity, to put it in a nutshell. And that is the direction I want my whole ADAPT agenda to go.

Shared momentum

There was a real sense of energy, participation and commitment which I want to harness in order to keep the momentum going.

It’s absolutely essential that this is not just driven by agencies – because it’s in everyone’s interests, not just the IPA’s – so it’s heartening to know that we not only have the support, but also the active participation, of ISBA, the Marketing Society, and intermediaries like Oystercatchers and the AAR.

The ADAPT agenda is about changing behaviour, and you do that better by involving everyone.

Clearly there are a lot of different perspectives on how we can strengthen those alliances, but no-one has a monopoly on the best ideas, and it’s only by reflecting and incorporating input from all sides that we can really move forward as an industry.

In my view, it’s possible to distill all the ideas that emerged during the day into three broad themes.

1) Creating a culture of honesty, openness and communication

2) Recognising mutual interest

3) Ensuring people are skilled in understanding the psychology of organisational and personal relationships

Next steps

So what happens now?

We’ve set ourselves a 100-day deadline to come up with a more concrete set of experiments, and then report back on those.

The recommendations for these experiments came from groups which each looked at different aspects of relationships:

  • starting as we mean to go on;
  • behaviour that leads to continuous improvement in client-agency relationships;
  • and driving change in multiple relationships.

We’ve asked IPA industry members to lead and co-ordinate these groups, push the ongoing conversations, and then come back with a concrete set of best practice learnings, all of which will lead us in the direction of the desired outcomes of better, longer, client-agency relationships.

Those groups are led respectively by Katie Lee, IPA New Business Group and Leo Burnett; Liz Nottingham, IPA People Management Group and Starcom MediaVest; and Liz Wilson, IPA Client Service Group and CMW.

They are working with others from the client and intermediary community to set up the experiments, see what works (and what doesn’t) and share their experiences.  

Get involved 

My message to those who couldn’t make the day is simple: get involved.

Pick an area where you think there is a need for change and have a go. Float an idea, run an experiment, feed back the results or share your findings. Think of yourself or your organisation as a test lab.

The sharing is critical, because the more we share, the wider the knowledge and the better the end result.

The best places to get involved are via the IPA’s ADAPT Hub and through our LinkedIn ADAPT group.


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