Times are tough in the UK and times are tough for the UK advertising industry. Once the envy of the world, our industry is in a period of significant flux, as we struggle to find our place in a new marketing landscape dominated by social media giants and management consultants, both of which are working to disintermediate advertising agencies and deal direct with marketing clients.
There’s no doubt that we need to find new ways to stay important and relevant, and keep being a hugely vital industry to the UK economy. It’s worth noting that the advertising industry adds £120 billion to UK GDP each year and employs almost 500 thousand diverse and highly creative people.
In fact, advertising employs exactly the sort of people who will ensure its future looks far more rosy than the current reality suggests. From the very top down, advertising is under new management. The UK’s biggest advertising holding company is now led by the smart and digitally savvy Mark Read, who is a generation or two younger than his recent predecessor.
The advertising agency is becoming smarter and more dynamic
The energy that flows through the rest of the industry is more dynamic than I have known it to be in a decade or more. We are seeing new types of agencies springing up, serving clients in fresh and commercially exciting ways. We have the in-house specialists putting creative people into client organisations and offices. We have agencies linked with broadcasters, such as Sky and Channel 4. We have new agencies with their own broadcast studios that offer high-quality programming as well as the more regular ads. We are undoubtedly a new model industry these days.
And we are a far smarter industry too. We all know about the dark side of data analytics from headlines about Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ. But there’s a brighter side, where brilliant data-driven marketing is being put to use by leading brands, for commercial and positive reasons, and the UK is a world leader in this whole area.
For my part, in my role as industry cheerleader as president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, I have put technology and machine-learning at the heart of my agenda. I have been driven to raise the standard of knowledge and confidence in the industry to make marketing magic with the machines.
So we are world leaders in using marketing data and artificial intelligence, and in driving new entrepreneurial models for our businesses. But we are still the envy of the world for the quality of our overall creativity. The top two agencies at last year’s Cannes Lions, the global marketing world’s Oscars, were from the UK.
The future of the advertising industry looks bright
Advertising at its best can transform businesses like no other investment. Just think what the Meerkat has brought to Compare the Market, what the Christmas ads have done for John Lewis, and what Marmite and Dove’s marketing has delivered to Unilever. No other business partners can have anything like that game-changing impact, and clients will always need and value it.
But increasingly we are able to bring our skills at making brands famous to bear on so many other parts of the customer experience, from omnichannel retailing through to after-sales chatbot-based support services. We ensure every customer touchpoint delivers a useful branded experience.
I have never been more excited about the future of advertising. We are the best in the world and we are leading the world, and no matter whether we are increasingly an island nation, we will remain a destination for the best creative minds to come and transform global businesses. The future is bright for the advertising industry.