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It's Time We Talked About Advertising's True Value to UK Economy

Publicis Groupe UK CEO and the chair of the Advertising Association says as an industry we've never been better placed to make an impact

By Annette King

As one of the country’s greatest exports, the UK Creative industries have long been the envy of the world. Our ability to shape and shift stories that celebrate brands, reimagine their identity for a new era - and at times help them to wade through the unforeseen - has helped advertising to become a cultural and commercial beacon for Britain.

For us agency people, creativity has always been the greatest source of pride for our industry; held up by a group of wildly talented people deeply committed to a long list of crafts that, when combined, makes up the cultural engine that brings big ideas to life in our ever-changing world. But despite creativity being universally recognised as a force for growth and innovation, as an industry what we’ve failed to champion in the same way is the commercial acumen that we bring to the UK.

And in doing so, the true contribution that Advertising gives to our economy has gone unsung for far too long.

To understand the weight of what our industry provides, it helps to understand the sheer number of people driving its success. Across the length and breadth of the UK, advertising supports almost one million jobs, with 57 per cent of those based outside of London. Across the large and diverse ad tech sector that continues to flourish here, there are more than 300 UK-headquartered companies throughout the country, employing tens of thousands of people and attracting more than £1bn in investment since 2013. The continued growth of the UK tech sector speaks to the welcome, growing relationship that it has with the creative industries who continue to find opportunities in the birth of its start-ups, which saw it reach a record high of 29 unicorns in 2021. A further nod to advertising’s cross-sector appeal when it comes to building and breaking brands at the announcement of new innovations.

Following the surge in online activity and the particular growth of retail amidst the pandemic, we saw our greatest period of digital acceleration since the initial dot com boom. When it comes to the online advertising market, the UK is the most advanced; the largest in all of Europe, and the third largest in the world behind the United States and China, according to Ad Pays 7, a report by UK advertising thinktank, Credos. An enormous feat when considering the vast difference in populations and further proof that the level of the UK’s creativity is reflected in the spend – with the UK’s ranked as the highest in the world relative to the size of the economy.

When considering the current climate of economic uncertainty, these figures feel increasingly important and form a critical part of the case we must make to the UK Government to continue its support of this industry as one of the country’s most valued exports. Last month’s report via the Advertising Association predicted 9.2 per cent growth in 2023 taking its value to £34.9bn; a figure which also speaks to the demand from brands which are increasingly focused on digital transformation – and the advertising industry’s drive to upskill our talent to meet the projected growth.

The pride we hold for the creative product that we’ve consistently reinvented and reimagined over decades and the breadth of talent that continues to drive it, is a definitive part of our narrative. But as the UK looks to understand where its most powerful economic players exist, we are presented with a window of opportunity to champion advertising’s power to drive disproportionate and sustainable growth at a time when the country has never needed it more.


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