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We talk to the IPA Healthcare group about demonstrating the value of creativity


We spoke to Ed Shorthose, IPA Healthcare Chair (and Managing Director at woolley pau gyro) and Phil Bartlett, IPA Healthcare Deputy Chair (and Managing Director at CDM London) on how they are working with the rest of the IPA Healthcare agencies to help demonstrate the value of creativity

See what they had to see…

AH: Tell us a little about yourself?

Ed: I stumbled into the healthcare marketing and advertising industry 15 years ago, at a time in my life when I needed a different plan and since then I’ve worked in a number of different roles at various agencies, some fun and some very stressful but all absolutely fascinating. For the last three years I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside Dean Woolley as Managing Director of woolley pau gyro.
I’m the current Chair of the IPA’s healthcare group.

Phil: Like Ed, I came into the healthcare ad industry about 15 years back, first with Grey and Ogilvy then for 5 great years at Saatchi Healthcare and almost the same at McCann Health before arriving at CDM London last March. I’ve been a network agency guy the whole time, which has been an interesting ride to say the least – no two days are the same, and that keeps me on my toes.


AH: What is the IPA all about and why is it important?

Ed: The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) is the professional body for advertising, media and marketing communications agencies in the United Kingdom. As well as being the voice of the industry it provides various support and services to its 300ish member agencies such as legal advice, research, training and CPD (I’ve used their services for many years and they’re great). It runs the IPA Effectiveness Awards, quoted as being the most rigorous effectiveness award scheme in the world, making the case for the commercial value of great creativity, and it’s also responsible for the IPA Best of Health Awards, which started off as the HAAG awards 19 years ago. The headquarters are in Belgrave Square, between two embassies, and is full of extremely hard working, very friendly staff. And they let me put my bicycle in the cellar.

Phil: For me, the IPA connects the agencies in some way – we’re all in direct and fierce competition with each other yet the IPA speaks for all of us – this makes it something of a “safe place” where we can come together with shared goals and a shared agenda and leave our competitiveness at the door.


AH: Tell us about your role in the IPA healthcare group

Ed: I’m currently the Chair of the group. We take turns every two years (I took over from Dominic Owens of Seven Stones) to make sure the work is shared out and to stop anyone turning into a despot. I work very closely with Phil to shape the year’s agenda, make the meetings happen (you wouldn’t be amazed at how difficult it is to get 12 agency MDs around the same table) and ensure we make things happen, not just talk about them.

Phil: And I’m the Deputy Chair of the group. This means taking an active role in planning our activities and working alongside Ed to help keep things moving whilst ensuring we’re representing the agenda not only of our working group but of the healthcare members of the IPA in general. It’s a commitment in time and energy, but it’s a worthwhile one.


AH: What other agencies are you working with

Ed: Active members of the healthcare group are: CDM, Cuttsy & Cuttsy, Digitas Health, Frontera, Grey Health, Langland, McCann Health, Ogilvy Healthworld, Saatchi Health, Seven Stones, TBWA\PW & woolley pau gyro.

We’re always looking for more members so if you run an IPA member agency in the healthcare arena, you should contact me or Phil.

Phil: I’d just add that it’s sometimes easy to complain about the state of the nation from afar, but by engaging with like-minded organisations there’s a better chance of making things change for the better. Here endeth the lesson.

See the other members here -


AH: What’s your agenda for your term as chair?

Ed: Broadly speaking it’s to highlight the value creativity brings to a client’s business and how they can / should work with their agency to ensure the best work gets out.
It’s in line with Ian Priest’s (current IPA President) agenda for the industry as a whole as there’s little difference between the consumer world and that of healthcare: the dilution of marketing spend across new channels and disciplines, the client staff reductions, the general cost cutting and the rise and rise of procurement in the choice of agency mean we need to champion our cause like never before: a great creative idea, be it a campaign or a single tactic, can change customer behaviour and add significant financial value to a brand and a business. It’s what the best agencies are born to do and they should be engaged properly, treated respectfully and rewarded fairly.

Phil: We all believe that creativity drives brand value – if we didn’t we’d be in the wrong jobs. Yet some of the client organisations with whom we work don’t necessarily always see their agencies as the And the agencies who work with us in the IPA Healthcare Group are all challenging ourselves to do better and better work,


AH: Is it just having a chat and a beer or do you have any specific outputs?

Ed: Our agenda is about changing behaviour with creativity so it would seem ironic if the group was all talk and no action. Last year we produced two client / agency roundtables discussing the role of creativity in business challenges and responded as a “super agency” to a creative brief focusing on getting people to take their medicines properly. The five-month activity involved the IPA’s consultant of Behavioural Economics, Nick Southgate, marketing and procurement representatives from several pharma companies and creative teams from each of the member agencies.

As an output of these activities (and a request from several clients) we’ve produced a two-hour session on how to work with your creative agency for maximum business value. This is being rolled out for free to the industry this year. Interested pharma companies can get in touch with me directly.

We’re also working on some exciting new elements to this year’s Best of Health awards. Watch this space…

Phil: I think this is a really important point and if we were all talk I don’t think any of the people involved would be involved. It would be dead easy for the group to be a talking shop – an opportunity for MDs to sit and have a good whine about the difficulties we all face – but we’re focused on actually doing something to change the things we don’t think work as they should rather than shouting at the clouds and doing nothing proactive. It’s something Ed and I feel very passionate about and it’s why we work well together.


AH: When are the IPA best of Heath awards happening?

Ed: To allow for a few improvements, and to spread things out a bit, the awards have been moved to end of November. I believe the entry deadline will be sometime in September and the eligibility dates for work will be from 1st Jan 2014 – 31st August 2015.


AH: Is it important to have a place where agencies work together rather than just against each other!

Ed: The group gets on extremely well and I think we all enjoy the time we spend with each other. As your question suggests, as MDs of agencies, we spend most of our lives worrying about what our competitors are up to and how to beat them. I wouldn’t say this competitiveness disappears completely when we walk into the IPA, but it’s definitely put on the back burner while we tackle the issues that affect us all. By and large we’ve all had similar experiences and have faced similar problems through our careers and I don’t want to get too introspective but it can be quite lonely being the boss; you’ve spent your career gossiping, comparing notes and learning from your agency peers and then, when you make it to the top, all that disappears. I think the idea of leaving the swords at the door is welcomed by us all and it gives us the space to share ideas, argue them through and use our combined influence for the common good.
And only then do we have a beer.

Phil: The healthcare industry is so relatively small – especially if you’re looking at the agencies who believe in the power of creativity and therefore engage with the IPA – that a lot of times those within the group have a lot of mutual friends and some may even have worked together in the past. Couple that with the fact that we’re all largely in the same job with largely similar challenges and there’s a lot of mutual respect before we start. There’s no doubt that we can achieve more together than we can as individual agencies, and it’s that approach that allows us to leave our swords as Ed says (although it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m often packing a knife just in case things get out of hand).


AH: How do you get involved if you’d like to help out?

Ed: You can contact the IPA group executive Holly Davidson: or you can email me or Phil directly: