UK government to 'bang the drum' for ad exports at Cannes Lions

DIT: working with the AA
DIT: working with the AA

Forty British companies are travelling on biggest trade mission to festival.

The UK government has teamed up with the British ad industry to run its biggest trade mission yet at the Cannes Lions festival in June to promote "the best of UK advertising".

Forty small and medium-sized businesses are travelling to Cannes as part of the initiative, which is being led by the Department for International Trade under the banner: "Creativity is GREAT."

Imagery to promote the campaign features a speedboat racing through waves in the shape of the Union Jack and a message: "Cannes 2019. Here come the Brits."

The government’s "GREAT" campaign is a long-standing effort to promote Great Britain and Northern Ireland as an exporter and it has taken on fresh urgency since the Brexit referendum in 2016 because of the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future trading relationships.

The Advertising Association is co-ordinating industry support at Cannes and a working group, which includes Clear Channel, Channel 4, Framestore, London & Partners, M&C Saatchi and Newsworks, is supporting DIT and the AA.

The "Creativity is GREAT" campaign will include an "activation space", designed by Framestore, the visual-effects company behind Hollywood blockbuster Gravity, and M&C Saatchi in the Palais Piazza in the heart of the festival.

The "truly immersive" space will be the first time that the UK government has taken over such a prominent location where delegates gather at Cannes.

UK advertising companies will also be invited to network in other designated areas, including Le Jardin de Clear Channel, a prime location on the Croisette hosted by the out-of-home media owner, and the Channel 4 Villa.

DIT and the AA are planning events with delegates from other countries including China and South Korea – part of a push to look beyond the European Union as Brexit looms.

Cannes Lions, which is owned by Ascential, a British company, is the most important global event in the advertising calendar.

Giving UK advertising a 'higher profile' and more 'influence'

Conrad Bird, director of campaigns and marketing at DIT, said: "A strong presence at Cannes Lions gives our most creative and cutting-edge companies the opportunity to show the world’s top influencers and buyers just how imaginative, innovative and inspiring Britain is. 

"At Cannes Lions, CMOs and their advisers come to meet new people, understand new trends and new innovations, and DIT will be here banging the drum for Britain.

"We are delighted to be working with the UK advertising industry under the ‘Creativity is GREAT’ banner to give the UK an even higher profile, more influence and a more effective presence this year.’’

Philippa Brown, president of the AA, said: "The UK will always be a lead hub and a lead market for advertising services and creative services – we are, we have been and we continue to be – but what we can’t do is take things for granted when we’ve got all the uncertainty of Brexit."

Brown, who was promoted earlier this month from UK chief executive of Omnicom Media Group to global chief executive of PHD, said the UK ad sector "has grown massively" in the past decade.

"But I’m not sure about how strategic we’ve been [about increasing advertising exports]," Brown pointed out. "This campaign is quite strategic. It’s a three-year campaign – it’s not a drop in the ocean."

The 40 UK businesses that are travelling to Cannes as part of the campaign are split into two groups.

The IPA is bringing 20 ad agencies: 23red, Anything is Possible, Ardmore, Chrome Productions, Good-Loop, Goodstuff Communications, Hunterlodge, Impero, Jaywing, Keel London, London Advertising, Playmob, Raw London, Social Life, St Luke’s, The Digital Fairy, The Specialists Works, Three Wise Monkeys, TrueUp and Uncommon Creative Studio.

London & Partners is supporting 20 high-growth, London-based ad-tech and martech businesses, which include Attachment, Billion Dollar Boy, Blis, Livity, Nexus Studios and Smartology.

Newsworks, the trade body for UK newspaper publishers, will provide support by covering UK advertising’s presence at Cannes.

Campaign will also showcase UK talent in its global issue in June as part of "Creativity is GREAT".

James Murphy, co-founder of Adam & Eve/DDB and the AA’s exports champion, said: "The partnership between our industry and UK government is a timely opportunity for everyone who believes in the importance of protecting and building our reputation as a world-class hub for advertising and marketing services."

The AA previously staged Export Month in March, when Britain was scheduled to leave the EU at the time. Activity involved events at the Shanghai International Advertising Festival, South by Southwest in Texas and Advertising Week Europe in London.

UK advertising exports grew 18% to £6.9bn in 2017, compared with 7% growth for the wider services sector, according to the AA.

For more information on "Creativity is GREAT" at Cannes, visit

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