Annette King

The New AA Chair - Annette King

Annette King, the CEO of Publicis Groupe UK, on her top priorities as chair of the Advertising Association

By Creative Salon

The Advertising Association has announced the appointment of Annette King, CEO, Publicis Groupe UK as its new Chair, joining the AA Board and working closely with the AA CEO, Stephen Woodford and AA President, Alessandra Bellini.

King will be replacing PHD’s Philippa Brown who has completed a three-year term, which saw the launch of initiatives Ad Net Zero and All In, as well as the industry’s journey through the pandemic and its recovery. King will now pave the way for the association’s focus on talent as well as its work on public trust, inclusion, climate action and key lobbying issues for the industry.

King joins for a three-year term at a key moment for the Advertising Association as it adds global ambitions to its joint climate initiative with the IPA and ISBA, Ad Net Zero; deals with a series of regulatory issues including the Online Advertising Programme; and continues to represent the UK advertising industry at national and international levels, working with Government and members to secure the next decade of advertising’s export growth.

King's role as Chair will be to help support the strategic direction and delivery of the Association’s work and its wider remit, reporting to its 14-strong Board on behalf of its tripartite industry membership.

Stephen Woodford, CEO, Advertising Association, said: “Annette is one of the most impressive voices in UK advertising today and we are delighted to welcome her to the AA’s distinguished Board. She brings vast experience and strong work on creating a more inclusive workplace, an area especially relevant to us as we launch the next three actions of the All In Action Plan as well as announce our first wave of All In Champion organisations. Thanks must also go to Philippa Brown for her excellent work steering the industry through the pandemic and its extraordinary recovery. I look forward to working closely with Annette, alongside our President, Alessandra Bellini, the AA Council and Board as we work hard to tackle the challenges faced by our industry, from climate change to the talent crisis.”

King became CEO of Publicis Groupe UK in 2018. In four years, she has revitalised the company, streamlining the structure, bringing in new capabilities and expertise and accelerating growth. She has introduced flexible-working and a company-wide mental health programme, as well as a series of people-focused initiatives such as a menopause policy, a set of family-friendly policies and disability and trans inclusion policies.

Creative Salon caught up with Annette King to talk about her 100-day plan for the AA and how she intends to make the case for advertising.

Creative Salon: You are one of the most significant advertising figures in our industry today. What does this new role mean to you? Is this the next new chapter to add to your achievements?

Annette King: It’s an honour and a privilege to represent the industry that I love. I’m fiercely results-driven, which is what I believe is needed in this role at a critical moment as we seek to make the industry more attractive to people from different backgrounds, and to deliver greater value to people’s everyday lives through advertising.

CS: It’s predicted to be a tough time for the industry, and to our minds there could be no better ally than you - tough-talking and someone known for driving change. When you were first approached, was it a challenge you simply couldn’t resist?

AK: I wanted to say yes straight away as I love this industry and I love a challenge, but I had to take a bit of time to make sure that I had the time to do it properly as I don’t ever like to do a half-baked job. After talking at length with Stephen [Woodford] and, of course, Arthur [Sadoun, Publicis Groupe's CEO], I was able to confirm that I could do it. I’m excited by what I can help deliver, working closely with the AA team, Board, members and President over the coming three years.

CS: Let’s talk about your big tasks and priorities - what does your 100-day plan look like?

AK: I take over the role from Philippa after the July Board meeting. An immediate priority is to finalise the three-year strategy for 2023-2025.

Then, top of the to-do list is tackling our talent challenges, working closely with Alessandra Bellini, the AA President. I’ll be helping the team to deliver on the core workstreams which are rebuilding public trust in advertising, building a more inclusive industry and addressing the challenge of climate change. And, of course, developing the industry’s response to key legislative issues such as the Online Advertising Programme.

CS: In this hyper-connected world advertising matters - in some ways more than ever - how much more forceful does the AA need to be to truly make the case for advertising?

AK: I believe that our industry can absolutely do more to make the case for advertising, not only its economic contribution but also the genuine social value it can bring. This role was thrown into sharp relief during the pandemic with advertising the route to delivering vital health messaging to save lives. This is something we should hold on to as we build back better from the pandemic.

"I believe that our industry can absolutely do more to make the case for advertising, not only its economic contribution but also the genuine social value it can bring."

Annette King

CS: Alessandra Bellini recently said that pay growth in the ad industry has failed to match long-term rates of inflation and economic growth. Do you agree with her observations?

AK: Alessandra was referencing a set of findings from a report that the advertising’s thinktank, Credos, is working on.

We will be reviewing the full results this summer and using these to inform our strategy for the next three years. The results will include how salary levels impact the industry’s ability to compete for talent compared to other professional service industries.

CS: The HFSS and the BOGOF issue - which have been around since 2007 - was never one of the finest moments for the industry. Do you not think legislators have got it so wrong in making advertising the sole issue when it comes to tackling obesity ?

AK: I know the AA team are of the view that policy decisions should be evidence-based, and that tackling childhood obesity requires a multi-faceted approach to drive behaviour change. The Government’s own impact assessment shows that ad bans will have an incredibly small effect – around 2.5 calories’ reduction a day. This is inconsequential compared to initiatives like The Daily Mile, encouraging children to exercise every day.

Also, if you stop and think about it, advertising bans can have an adverse impact because advertising encourages brands to compete, whether that’s through innovation, reformulation or competitive pricing, all of which are good for consumer choice.

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