What does the ad industry want from Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson: took office as UK prime minister yesterday
Boris Johnson: took office as UK prime minister yesterday

As Boris Johnson begins his first full day in office, the advertising industry has its say.

Boris Johnson's first day as prime minister has been nothing short of eventful.

In his first speech outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson vowed that he would get Britain out of the EU, deal or no deal, by declaring: "Never mind the backstop, the buck stops here." 

The Conservative leader swapped his trademark banter for a more ruthless and vengeful approach, sacking former colleagues from predecessor Theresa May’s cabinet (including his leadership rival Jeremy Hunt) and appointing die-hard Brexiteers to key cabinet posts.

His reshuffle – likened to a cull – was carried out amid chaotic scenes, with thousands of anti-Johnson protesters marching on Whitehall.

Johnson is likely to court more controversy today when he makes his House of Commons debut and faces Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But what will the Johnson premiership mean for the advertising industry?

Charles Vallance

Founder and chairman, VCCP

"Boris' grasp of detail may be questionable, but his understanding of communication is way ahead of most politicians. One of the main things he can offer the industry is a reminder of some of the basics of brand building. For instance, he brilliantly illustrates the importance of the 3F's (© System 1), namely, Fame, Fluency and Feeling. Politicians and brands don't win on argument, they win on sentiment and feeling. To be successful you must win hearts first, not minds. Then minds follow.

"Fluency and consistency are also crucial. The idea of 'Boris being Boris' creates a kind of insulation around his brand. And then there is his fame. Boris is not afraid to be himself (or, I concede, his persona). His vocabulary is idiosyncratic, he's eccentric to the point of being buffoon-ish. He's the opposite of a machine politician and this really cuts through.

"A little Boris goes a long way. The question now is whether a lot of Boris will go a little way, or the full Brexit distance."

Michael Frohlich

Chief executive, Ogilvy UK

"New prime minister Boris Johnson should be focused on bringing stability and cohesion to the UK at a time in which businesses have been unsure on how to proceed on a range of decisions, not least what their marketing spend should look like.

"The new PM has historically championed the power of UK creativity, and I would hope he continues to do so, as well as focusing on clarity around the economic future of the country. It’s no secret it’s been a turbulent time for the UK, with uncertainty being felt within our industry and beyond. Remaining in a state of flux for much longer will only perpetuate being stuck at a halfway point – let’s hope we start to see concrete next steps soon.

"From a talent perspective, I would also hope we can maintain a position of attracting some of the best and brightest in the world to come to the UK and thrive in the creative industries.

Sarah Jenkins

Chief marketing officer, Grey London

"I want Boris Johnson’s tenure to create a legacy that ends the politics of entitlement. How poetic that the 20th prime minister from Eton (who enters Downing Street amidst accusations of divisive politics) were to have a Damocles moment and make equality a key policy. We might raise eyebrows at the private school influence over politics, but advertising is no better.

"One in three of our leaders are privately educated, well above the UK average of one in 15 people. We need government policies that prioritise opportunities to all; access to the world’s best talent, regardless of background, would be an incredible gift."

Nigel Vaz

President, IPA

"Business hates uncertainty. The appointment of Boris Johnson as prime minister resolves one question, yet leaves many more unanswered. As the deadline for leaving the EU looms closer, while parliament heads into recess, we are no closer to knowing how or whether Brexit will take place.

"We would encourage the new PM to be thoughtful, in both word and deed, to business interests; to provide business leaders with the confidence in the UK economy necessary to unlock investment. Our creative industries contribute more than £100bn annually to the British economy and employ more than two million people – I can think of no better area, for the PM to start betting on Britain, than there."

Stephen Woodford

Chief executive, The Advertising Association

"We congratulate Boris Johnson on his appointment as PM and look forward to working with him and his administration for the benefit of the UK across government: with DCMS as our sponsor department and a crucial partner in our drive to grow the creative industries; with DIT on building exports of UK advertising services; and with DHSC on the important issue of finding solutions to the problem of childhood obesity and how advertising can help in this area.

"There is much work to do to build constructively upon our standing as Europe’s leading digital advertising marketplace and fulfil all of our responsibilities as an important cog in the economic strength and social wellbeing of our country."

Mat Goff

Joint chief executive, Adam & Eve/DDB

"We’ve had three years suspended on the Brexit high wire, stuck between our inability to agree a way forward and insufficient momentum to force an about-turn. Now, zip-lining to the rescue, comes the high-wire dangler-in-chief, once more clutching the Union Jack and hoping, perhaps beyond hope, that some optimistic flag waving might be enough to break the impasse.

"Like it or loathe it, there is no doubting that Brand Boris brings with it more energy than his predecessor and maybe, just maybe, it will create enough momentum to get Britain moving again. One way or the other."

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