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The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) is the industry’s professional body that oversees courses and qualifications. The president is the de facto voice of the ad industry.

Nigel Vaz, the newly- appointed IPA president is the global chief executive of the digital agency Publicis Sapient. He’s the first IPA president from a technology background instead of a creative one, and the first of Indian-American heritage.

As president, what challenges does Vaz see facing the industry? Vaz believes that, as the economy is evolving due to digital technology, the ad industry needs to redefine itself in order to remain relevant to clients. Earlier this month he shared his “Reimagine” agenda to members of the IPA.

“Reimagine” lays out a series of initiatives around three focus areas: role, revenue, and responsibility. Vaz considers the first and most important step for the advertising industry is to shift its role to fundamentally become partners for growth with clients.  

So how should agencies become “partners for growth” with clients? Vaz says that they need to better leverage digital tools at their disposal, from using new platforms and technologies to embracing big data. He added that agencies must behave responsibly to avoid privacy concerns and the misuse of data.

Another initiative is updating and creating new IPA qualifications fit for the modern age such as encouraging agencies to act like startups, develop new business models, and requiring member agencies to report on diversity ratios for women in boardrooms and black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) people in both entry-level and leadership roles.

Vaz points out that diversity is a challenge across the business world. As agencies become increasingly reliant on data, a lack of diversity in the tech talent pool is becoming more of an issue for the ad world too. Agencies should focus on creating solutions to address the problems of not having enough BAME people in entry-level and leadership roles, or enough women on boards.

Another challenge agencies face is maintaining their income despite clients’ attempt to cut costs. Vaz thinks that the agencies should be focused on helping clients to increase their revenue.

By becoming a client’s partner for growth, agencies are creating more opportunities to become indispensable to the clients and will be remunerated accordingly.

Vaz has his work cut out for him. The ad industry is still trying to figure out the best ways to deliver brand messaging in an ever-changing market while coping with the challenge of cost-cutting by clients, some of whom are bringing their advertising in-house.

Vaz hopes that his agenda will push the industry out of its current doldrums and towards finding new paths to success. His tenure as president only lasts two years.