The UK is the global exporting powerhouse for advertising and marketing services. No other country has our concentration of creativity, skills and openness – and the statistics bear this out. Annual UK exports of advertising services were worth £6.9bn according to the last Office for National Statistics figures, an 18% increase on the previous figure of £5.8bn. The UK exports more advertising services than it imports to the tune of £3.8bn – this is the largest trade surplus in ad services in Europe. Since 2005 the UK has won more Cannes Lions than any other European country – over 1,500. But even with all this success, we live in fast-moving and changing times. Seismic economic and political developments, such as Brexit, mean that now is no time to rest on our creative laurels.
We need to look to the future and continue beating the drum for UK advertising, so that the growth seen over recent years continues. The advertising and marketing services industry has taken this mission seriously. This month, we have launched the UK Advertising Exports Group (UKAEG) as a new cross-industry partnership with the UK Government to accelerate profile and lead generation opportunities in key international territories including China, Japan, South Korea, North America and Europe. The initiative is backed by the Advertising Association, the IPA, APA, DMA, London & Partners and the Creative Industries Council, and launches with 37 members drawn from across the UK’s advertising and marketing services landscape.
The Group is further strengthened by the industry’s partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT), which is backing the initiative with funding and increased access for UK advertising at GREAT events around the world. DIT’s involvement reflects the UK Government’s ambition to build exports of advertising services in markets identified as priorities for growth and as the country establishes new relationships with our closest markets in Europe, as well as with those further afield.
Prior the launch of UKAEG, we had already begun to grow activity around the theme of the UK as a global exporting hub. Last year, I attended the Shanghai International Advertising Festival, where there was a day dedicated to British advertising. This was also the case at SXSW 2019, where British advertising took over the Music Embassy for a day. Similarly, we had a co-ordinated UK industry effort at Cannes Lions for the first time last year. All these moments demonstrated to me that if we work together as an industry for the benefit of our industry, we will be far more effective than if we operate at individual level. We have so much to learn from each other and so much expertise to give each other and a forum like UKAEG is the perfect place for these conversations and knowledge-sharing to happen. As a group, we at UKAEG already have exciting plans in place for SXSW later this month, as well as during Advertising Week Europe and, looking further ahead, at Cannes Lions in June.
But the continued success of British advertising on the world stage is, above all, testament to the resilience and underlying strength of advertising in the UK. Even in the most uncertain of times, of which we have seen many in recent years, the unmatched combination of creative excellence, effectiveness, expertise, leading-edge digital and data skills and the ease of doing international business shine through and deliver growth.
Quality clients follow quality talent which in turn attracts more great talent, from all over the world, as well as in the UK and this virtuous circle seems as strong as ever. This virtuous circle we see in this country continues to be the UK’s abiding strength in a globally competitive industry and it is an advantage that should be built on in the coming years with a skills-oriented and business-friendly immigration policy.
Congratulations to everyone across the British advertising industry involved in international business on the success story we have seen in recent years. Advertising, and our wider Creative Industries, are a crucial engine for our country’s economy. But at the very heart of our success are our talented colleagues from the UK and around the world who’ve chosen to live and work here. We all have a role to play in ensuring that our industry remains an exporting dynamo in the years ahead and by working together through initiatives like UKAEG, we can be more confident that this growth, with the jobs and exports earnings it generates, can continue. I urge any interested business to join us in our mission.