Advertising's future is in all our hands

What's is in store for adland in 2019?

Just before Christmas, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport published figures showing that the UK creative industries contributed £100bn to the British economy in 2017, growing at twice the rate of the economy since 2010. Advertising was billed as a star performer, with DCMS secretary of state Jeremy Wright declaring that the creative industries "fly the flag for the best of British economy at home and abroad".

It's only right that advertising was singled out; we are a vital component of the economy. Adspend in 2017, estimated at north of £22bn, generated more than £132bn in value for UK plc. Annual UK exports of advertising services were worth £5.8bn in the latest figures and we will be releasing an updated set of figures in March.

This year, our industry’s success is even more vital as the UK moves towards a new role on the international stage and a changing relationship with our closest geographic markets. These are uncertain times, but when I reflect on advertising’s past, our industry has always adapted, innovated and thrived.

We’ve got the best and most comprehensive self-regulatory system in the world to ensure that advertising remains "legal, decent, honest and truthful"; but we are far from complacent. In 2019, we will be working with a cross-industry coalition to address the issues behind the long-term decline in public trust and favourability, so expect to hear much more on this in 2019 and beyond.

Championing our status as the industry’s global hub has never been more important. We’re determined to make our openness for business as widely known as possible, whatever the Brexit outcomes are. To that end, the Advertising Association has become the UK representative for Cannes Lions and we’re planning a showcase programme for UK advertising in the summer. More than that, we are working on ways for UK advertising to have a strong profile at the Shanghai International Advertising Festival and SXSW.

The government, via the Department for International Trade, is supportive of these efforts and is a key partner in our Promote UK group, along with about 40 other export-oriented businesses and organisations that are working hard towards keeping the UK the global leader in their field. I’m delighted that Campaign is a member of this group, too, and we welcome all businesses looking to grow their export prowess.

We will continue to press the government for the best possible deal for UK advertising, helped by the fact that most of the dominant services sectors of the UK economy share our goals. A growth- and business-friendly immigration policy is vital, so that UK advertising can continue to attract the brightest and best global talent. Also critical are sensible deals on data flows and broadcasting rights.

But whatever happens at the end of March, I believe UK advertising will adapt and thrive. We have a fascinating year ahead of us. Now’s the time to shape the best possible future for our industry here in the UK and on the world stage.

Stephen Woodford is chief executive of the Advertising Association

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