The month in advertising: Ready for 29 March?

All the big issues in adland this month...

In the long history of neologism – to which this industry can claim to have contributed more than its fair share – there are few words that have become more likely to engender a barely stifled yawn than the word "Brexit".

But (and bear with us) whether or not we like the result of the referendum, announced many moons ago when most of the industry was basking in the Cannes sunshine, the culmination of interminable months of frustrating uncertainty might yet still be resolved by the end of March. As many of the thought pieces contained within this issue show, resolution is what the serious side of advertising – much like every other part of British business – wants, in order that it can plan for Britain’s new role in the world.

At the moment, those final few words are normally suffixed with "whatever that is". But, in the spirit of New Year optimism, which we hope will not be misplaced, the business should cut out the oscitations that the B-word involuntarily triggers and embrace the new order, making the most of championing Britain’s proud history as the home (let’s face it, it’s more than a mere hub) of the best of global creativity.

Reflect on that. The home of global creativity. That’s not just a platitude, designed to make us all feel a little bit better about our lives or give us a warm and fuzzy feeling. The evidence, if needed, is there to see, not just in the annals of history or in legend or even in the dusty archives of the History of Advertising Trust in Raveningham. It’s in the reels of the best agencies right now (maybe you’re lucky enough to work at one of them) and, more importantly, in the brilliant minds that this industry is still lucky enough to attract a disproportionately high number of.

This continued creative and strategic brilliance is something that UK agencies need to be determined to carry on doing at a greater rate in 2019, and beyond, to ensure that not only we can all eventually pay off our mortgages (and hopefully help others do the same), but strengthen the industry’s hand in the face of the changing economic conditions.

Figures from the Advertising Association show that annual exports of advertising services stand at £5.8bn and they are growing at a higher rate than the rest of the economy. Moreover, one-third of the top 20 UK agencies’ revenue comes from overseas businesses – whether inside or outside the EU. Advertising makes a huge contribution to the UK economy: in those same figures, the AA puts its value to the country’s GDP at £132bn. This is not small beer.

Little wonder, then, that the AA has been busying itself over the past year reiterating to government that in a post-Brexit settlement its own red lines are: continued cross-border data flows; plurality of broadcasting channels to carry cross-border advertising; and a flexible migration system that allows access to the best talent. Furthermore, its Promote UK initiative, in association with the Department for International Trade, has helped hammer home the message of the strength and breadth of the UK’s advertising industry to global advertisers. This is a message that it will be continuing to deliver at international events, including the Shanghai International Advertising Festival, Cannes and SXSW in 2019.

While the AA has been acting on our behalf with government, the Brexit issue and its internal ramifications for agencies and their relationship with advertisers are also likely to trouble the IPA.

And, cometh the hour, cometh the man? Quite what Nigel Vaz, president-elect of the IPA and chief executive of Publicis.Sapient EMEA and APAC, will have to contribute to the matter we’ll have to wait and see when he announces his presidential agenda in a couple of months. What is certain is that he is a very different president from those who went before him – a serious man for what might be a more serious age. Anyone expecting mine host to be a bon viveur, standing hearty beery rounds in The Grenadier following the IPA’s annual New Year’s drinks, might find themselves a little disappointed.

So, amid all the celebrations of how the very best in British creative genius in advertising can make a dramatic impact on the fortunes of global companies, and the beating of the drum to make that message resonate beyond these shores, 2019 just got a little bit serious. All set for 29 March? Then let’s march forth.

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