IPA Adaptathon blog: Diversification means adding, not substituting

IPA president Ian Priest
IPA president Ian Priest

Diversification means adding to what we already do, not substituting says IPA president Ian Priest.

We’ve just recently held the Diversification Adaptathon, as part of my ADAPT agenda with four highly successful events: a debate featuring some provocative comment and discussion, and practical, hands-on, AdaptLab, sessions at The Bakery, Imagination and Google. 

The scope has been enormous: everything from tech, using data and insight, to seeing how film-makers and game-show developers bring creative concepts to life.

By definition, we’re in experimental territory here. That’s inevitable when you branch into new areas. It’s all about finding out what works, and what doesn’t.

That’s why we have the AdaptLabs. It’s difficult experimenting on your own. When we do it collectively, there’s more chance of getting it right.

The IPA has a real role here, bringing agencies together, giving them an environment where they can experiment, and sharing the learnings.

And of course, in this new world, we need to collaborate more. We’ll be doing it more with clients, with other agencies, with other types of creative, and with other forms of suppliers.

I think Coca-Cola’s 70:20:10 approach   is right: you’ve got to set aside time and budget to experiment with bold ideas – ones which you don’t know will work -- in this digitally complex, fragmented world.

But it’s really important to remember that diversification – in whatever forms it takes, whether content, gamification or tech-based development – is not an alternative to what we already do. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Diversification is an addition, but it’s an area where the core skill of agencies – creating strategies that connect brands with consumers – is even more vital.

Don’t just take my word. This is what Hamish Priest (no, relation – honest), global media innovations manager for Unilever’s Dove, said at the Adaptathon: "Agencies are critical because they understand our brands better than anyone."

One of the real highlights of this Diversification strand so far has been hearing from big advertisers – Unilever, Coca-Cola, BMW – about what they’re doing that’s new and different.

This tells me it’s mainstream – it’s not just pockets of niche activity at the margins. These are advertisers others look to emulate. Where they lead, others will follow.

One of the things I’ve loved about the Diversification strand has been the make-up of the participants, whether speakers or delegates. They’re all at the younger end of the industry. Lots of planners, media and creative; lots of creatives, most of them young. All of them digitally savvy.

It matters because much of the drive for this change is going to come from the bottom up. We don’t live in a top-down, hierarchical world any more. These are the next generation of ad industry leaders, and it’s right that they’re embracing change.

There’s a real sense that everyone is up for this.

It’s vital also that this relates this to the agency business model, which brings me back to the P for Performance strand of ADAPT. Commercially, diversification is a challenge to us all.

But new forms of output, new partnerships and new services should lead to new forms of remuneration. There’s motivation and reward involved. If it works for the client, we should get paid accordingly.

Let me know what you think, or post your opinions with the IPA. We’ll be reporting back soon on how the next 100 days are progressing with diversification.

And stay tuned to find out more about the forthcoming ADAPT sessions, in May, July and October. 

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