Advertising industry can be Ebeneezer Goode
The Advertising Association's UK House initiative is doing great work overseas, but more needs doing to improve advertising's reputation at home
21 March 2022
The DJ and former frontman of The Shamen, Mr. C., was generally acknowledged as one of the main proponents of UK House, back in the early 90s. Three decades on and Mr. Stephen Woodford, the chief executive of the Advertising Association, has taken to the decks and extended it into areas and territories previously thought unimaginable, even in some of Mr. C.'s more vivid dreams.
We refer, of course, to the promotional work of the UK Advertising Export Group (UKAEG) in partnership with the Department for International Trade, which seeks to accelerate the profile and lead generation of the British advertising industry around the world under the auspices of its UK House programme.
In its latest report, the Advertising Association has revealed that UK exports of advertising and marketing services were worth £11.7 billion in 2020 and brought in a £5 billion trade surplus. The study also announced that UKAEG will be reviewing its export strategy for the decade ahead in order to build on its position as a world-leading hub of commercial creativity. Julian Douglas, international chief executive and vice-chairman of VCCP, the IPA's President and a UKAEG member, says: “The creativity coming out of the UK is truly world class – and now is the time to capitalise on this success and secure a second decade of growth. I urge all companies looking to grow their international revenues to get involved in the Export Group and participate in UK House going forward.”
This is obviously brilliant news and is testament to the hard work being done to promote the UK advertising industry internationally; however you don't have to look very hard to find people still rubbishing its reputation domestically.
One of our features looks at advertising's reputation within popular culture, and one common theme emerged: its portrayal is not particularly pretty (or indeed accurate). Most of us will have felt our faces redden with embarrassment when it's the turn of the 'advertising task' on BBC's The Apprentice but the trope goes back far further - and is more pervasive - than just that. And while advertising professionals have become used to being the punchlines of jokes, it's not particularly helpful as we strive to attract new, diverse creative talent into the business.
While changing the narrative outside of the industry, and within popular culture, may take longer, championing advertising's contribution to the economy and society - and supporting each other - is something that is easier to accomplish. While there is much work still to do in improving the industry's reputation through fairer recruitment and employment policies, the very public self-flagellation isn't particularly helpful. It's time we got our own house in order.