Claire Beale on Advertising: Can this man lead adland out of the gloom?

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The Independent Online

Last week, the advertising industry gave itself a new president. His name is Rory, he's a Cambridge University classics alumni, a columnist on The Spectator (as the mag's "Wiki Man"), a vice-chairman of the advertising group Ogilvy and, likely as not right now, he is wearing an elbow-patched hacking jacket and a florid cravat. For the next two years, he will be the public face of the British advertising establishment.

Rory Sutherland is the 41st (white, male) president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. Before we proceed further, I acknowledge that Mr Sutherland might not matter much to you if you don't work in advertising and, quite possibly, he doesn't matter much to you if you do. But for the health of the advertising industry (on which, dear readers, our country relies as an economic driver), the choice of president matters rather a lot. Right now, it's crucial.

Mr Sutherland is taking on the adland challenge at perhaps the worst moment in its 90-year history. British advertising is forecast to decline by 9 per cent this year and Mr Sutherland, as its symbolic leader, will be expected to guide the business to salvation. Or, failing that, at least have some pretty clever ideas about how the advertising community can work together to ensure it comes out of the recession in the best possible shape.

So the industry's finest gathered at the Marriott Hotel in central London, last week to anoint their new figurehead, to check their IPA membership fees are being well spent, and to be reassured that they aren't all doomed. They heard Mr Sutherland talk of the need to put a value on what the advertising industry does, rather than how long it takes to do it (creative genius does not work to a timesheet). He spoke of the need for all factions of the business to unite to grow the industry, rather than slugging it out against each other for small territories within it.

They heard Mr Sutherland call on ad people to work formally together, leveraging the power of advertising and their consumer insight to tackle social problems. And they heard him prove that he is quite probably the most eloquent, intelligent and entertaining IPA president in recent memory.

But, perhaps more important than all this, the industry can be assured that the political and cultural climate in which Mr Sutherland takes the reins plays absolutely to his strengths. He is the first president in the IPA's history who has actually made ads. Even better, perhaps, he has made his living from direct marketing, where the effectiveness (or not) of creativity is measurable and accountable. And this is absolutely the moment for a creative to lead the industry charge.

As Mr Sutherland was delivering his advertising manifesto, Alistair Darling was delivering his fiscal one. In it, the Chancellor pledged that the creative industries would have access to a new £2.5bn fund aimed at creating highly skilled jobs. Creativity is advertising's business and it is a world-beater at it. Mr Sutherland must ensure that adland stakes its claim to some of the booty.

At this month's Digital Britain Summit, where Gordon Brown, Lord Mandelson, Andy Burnham and Stephen Carter lined up to pledge their commitment to fostering a digital economy, it was clear that creativity and content are crucial building blocks of this utopian future. The ad industry's voice went unheard at the event, but there is no doubt that it can play a key role in building Digital Britain. Mr Sutherland must ensure that adland finds a place at the heart of the initiative.

If his maiden speech lacked anything, it was a rousing, confident determination to promote what actually makes the ad industry so vital: transformational commercial creativity. The IPA's Creative Britain initiative last year nudged the issue forward a little, but a creative president now really needs to impassion the industry's creative community behind the cause and push it more forcefully on to the political agenda.

Mr Sutherland has two presidential years to make that good and, in doing so, throw his industry a lifeline.

Best in Show: Philips Aurea TV (Tribal DDB)

I know it's still only April, but this is one of the best pieces of commercial communication you'll see all year. It's for Philips and you'll find it at and it's superb.

Created by Tribal DDB Amsterdam and produced by Stink Digital, it's a stop-motion film of a shoot-out between cops and clowns, which is exactly as weird and disturbing as it sounds. It promotes the high specifications of Philips's new Aurea TVs – not an easy thing to demonstrate if you are watching on anything other than the TV itself, but this film captures the quality brilliantly.