Josh Krichefski’s “People First” Agenda

Below is an excerpt of the inaugural speech Josh Krichefski, CEO of GroupM EMEA and U.K., gave as the president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) on March 27, 2023. To watch the full speech and download the transcript, visit the IPA’s website here.

I know I’ve worked with some truly gifted people. And yet today, advertising isn’t always trusted or seen as relevant. And so, while of course we have amazing talent in our industry, it is getting harder to attract the brightest and the best.

Our people are everything. And we need to keep them joining. And that’s why during my presidency, the spotlight will be on People.

The IPA has made big progress in professionalising our industry. In framing my agenda, I want to bring some of that professionalism into what we do for our people. So my agenda is, quite simply — People First.

Nothing new there, you may say. And you’re right. Because we haven’t really solved the issue. It’s no coincidence that the AA is looking into this too from a cross-industry perspective. There is clearly nothing more important. And I want us to solve it.

Think back to the day you first came into advertising. Weren’t you excited? I know I was. A young impressionable TV buyer. My ponytail may have gone, but I still carry the excitement with me.

Fast forward to the recent VCCP and APG report and what do we find? Do people leaving education today consider advertising an attractive career option? Not many of them do. It’s a Reputation challenge, which has got tougher over time according to the Trust Survey, commissioned by the AA, IPA and ISBA.

My agenda is intended to meet the challenge head-on. It’s an agenda designed to:

  1. Help to continue to attract the best talent out there by re-framing our
    cultural and societal relevance in modern Britain – opening eyes.
  2. Help retain and nurture talent by being more inclusive than ever –
    opening hearts.
  3. And to look after the well-being of everyone by focusing on and supporting initiatives that promote positive mental health – opening minds.

So how do we “open eyes” and continue to attract the best talent into our industry?

Well, it isn’t just our reputation. We also have a category challenge. Many people believe London is where the entire industry is located and so it’s not for them, because they can’t afford to live there. And we have a brand challenge. They don’t believe they possess the skills or know how to get into the industry.

Let’s start with the reputation challenge. I suspect some of you joined the industry — as I did — at a time when advertising was regarded as one of the most relevant and desirable of all industries. Brilliant creative work — helped to shape Britain’s identity and culture. So what’s changed? And why are fewer people even contemplating careers in advertising?

Well, I’m sure ad bombardment isn’t helping. But also, part of the answer could lie in a perception of advertising’s diminishing cultural relevance. In fact, culturally influential moments are vanishingly small.

They do still exist. But they were really the hallmark of the 80s and 90s. They almost defined advertising to the wider public. Some of my favourite ads being:

  • The Guardian “Point of View” ad featuring a skinhead chasing a
    businessman down the street to save him from getting crushed
  • Or Maureen Lipman’s BEATTIE congratulating her grandson Anthony on his ‘ology.

Fun fact, the ‘ology boy in the BT ad was, in fact, my brother! You can imagine my teen years spent very much in his shadow. Anyway … moving swiftly on!

That was then, you may say. Well, I say advertising is no less significant today. And we still have brilliant creative work. My wife doesn’t cry at weddings, but she still cries at ads. But are we promoting advertising’s cultural relevance and the important role it plays in society today?

Well, we’ve begun to with school leavers, with the nationwide agency open day for schools, Advertising Unlocked. But could we do more?

We should consider what is important to people. And not just the younger generations. More people of all generations want to change the world for the better. The good news is the impact our industry has on the world is more positive than ever.

Yes, we help brands grow and sell stuff. But most brands are more purposeful than ever. The brands boasting the fastest growth are those compelled by a strong sense of responsibility to drive progress in sustainable lifestyles and inclusive action. And we are in the unique position to help them communicate this.

What could be more attractive than working in an industry with such a pivotal role in the future well-being of both society and the planet? We also have a role to play in national renewal, and shaping how the economy grows. We need to find ways to amplify this positive aspect of our work.

And this leads us to our brand challenge. It so happens that I am the first IPA President from a media background since
David Pattison, nine presidents ago! The way people consume media and buy things has changed during that time.

Fragmentation has made those watercooler moments less frequent — and so the relevance of our work might not always be so apparent. These days data, ads, reels, algorithms, culture, AI, curators contexts all collide. Our job is to harmonise all these elements.

Sarah Golding embarked on this with her Magic and the Machines agenda as IPA President in 2017. ChatGPT and other generative AI models are now turning this potential, into a mass participation reality.

So, advertising is not only still relevant it is arguably more interesting than ever. To attract the best talent, we must shine a light on the range of specialisms in our industry.

From strategists to art directors, from data scientists to machine learning specialists, from VR programmers to copywriters. Our jobs have all had an update. Our image needs one too now. We do this for clients every day. It is time to focus on ourselves!