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The case for advertising
Choice. A free press. The brands we love. Better products, cheaper. Search, social and e-mail. All of this is supported by advertising, but what support does advertising need?

A healthy, responsible advertising sector is good for people, good for business and good for the economy but to sustain that, we need policies which strengthen the advertising sector. For brands… that means the best regulatory climate to obtain returns on investment in advertising. For media… that means the best climate to create ad-funded content, and monetise it in the UK and worldwide. For agencies and services… that means protecting and developing the UK’s position as a global hub in the face of international challengers.

Sixteen billion pounds. Whether you’re in advertising, accountancy or aerospace, that’s a lot of money.

So in 2011, when UK business spent £16 billion on advertising, what happened? At the very least, those businesses expected a return on investment. But what about the rest of UK plc – how widespread were the effects? With the help of Deloitte’s modelling, we showed that when a pound is spent on advertising, it adds six to UK GDP. That meant a £100 billion boost to GDP in 2011 and over 550,000 high quality jobs.

When we think about advertising, its often in terms of big business. But in Advertising Pays 2, we show how advertising can transform small and medium sized companies too.

The report shows how SMEs are significantly underweight in their use of advertising, how that could be stifling revenues, jobs and growth, and what industry and Government can do to change things.

Getting noticed by overseas customers is the number one reason why smaller British businesses start exporting. And if the UK could raise its SME export performance to just the EU average, it would mean a £40 billion boost to the economy.

Advertising plays a critical part in the UK's Creative Industries - one of the economy's highest growth sectors. It is the second largest of the creative industries in its own right. Its revenues flow into radio, television, print, film and music. And working in advertising has been the starting point for actors, directors, writers, designers, producers and many more creative talents.

Through its seat on the Creative Industries Council, the AA works to build recognition and support for advertising’s role in British creativity and help Government create a supportive policy environment for UK brands, media and agencies.

Advertising's most robust statistics
The Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report is the definitive measure of where advertisers are spending their money in the UK.

Wherever available, we use actual data, not estimates or models. And with total market and individual media data stretching back to 1982, it’s the most complete picture around, in fact, the Bank of England uses our advertising spend data and nobody else’s. You’ll find the most recent highlights and trends here. The really detailed stuff is over at

Responsible advertising
It’s hard to think of a more high-profile business than advertising. Perhaps that’s why advertising is never too far from debates surrounding society’s problems.

According to its critics, advertising corrupts childhood, fuels obesity, targets the vulnerable, misuses data, even encourages alcohol abuse. We don’t shirk these tough topics, but we also believe that the freedom to advertise, within a clear, responsible framework, is good for people, good for business and good for the economy.

The AA runs industry networks around all of advertising's key issues and through these groups we improve the quality of available evidence, develop understanding of advertising's role and help brands, media and agencies keep practices responsible. In doing so, we hope to ensure that advertising’s benefits can be maximised for all concerned.

Advertising to children.

Get it right and advertising can help them experience and understand the commercial world, encourage companies to invest in quality products and services for children and encourage media-owners to make home-grown content and programmes that kids enjoy.

Get it wrong and children can be particularly vulnerable to being misled. Advertising to children requires special care, which is why we help agencies, brands and media owners stay close to the debate, monitor industry developments and engage with parents, Government and experts to keep advertising responsible.

Children's Ethical Communications Toolkit

Whether it’s a banner ad on your website, data collection, radio spot or any other form of advertising, marketing or research, making sure your commercial activity with children is within the rules is critical.

CHECK is a simple tool for marketers, with all the existing regulations, legislation and guidance relating to marketing to children, all in one place.

Advertising and public health

Smoking. Alcohol abuse. Unhealthy diets. When it comes to our public health challenges, restrictions on advertising are often singled out as easy-wins by campaigners.

But the evidence suggests that fewer adverts are unlikely to create better health outcomes. And both the costs and unintended consequences of advertising bans are significant. UK advertising plays an active part in tackling societal challenges, both through appropriate self-regulation and by improving education. However, the evidence suggests that bans and restrictions on advertising ‘unhealthy’ products have - at the most - a marginal impact on people’s lifestyle choices.

Our food and alcohol advertising groups put forward high-quality evidence, challenge poorly substantiated claims and engage campaign groups and policy-makers in constructive debate to both improve standards prevent disproportionate regulation.

Data and privacy

Ever heard someone say “know your customer”? Good targeting is the bedrock of any successful campaign and when it’s done well, it means better, more relevant ads for people and more efficient, effective ads for businesses.

But while online ads are regulated just like everything else, the rules governing what companies can and can’t do with data pre-date broadband and smartphones. UK advertising wants them updated, fit for purpose and workable for everyone and through the Advertising Association brands, media and agencies are working together to influence and improve the new Data Protection Framework in Brussels.

Diversity in advertising

Does advertising mirror or shape society? Do advertisers have a responsibility to reflect different genders, ethnicities, disabilities and body shapes in their advertising?

Through research and events the AA works to inform and stimulate the debate and help its industries connect with campaign groups and charities on the diversity agenda.

Higher risk products

The benefits for consumer when products are advertised responsibly are well established - encouraging quality and innovation and promoting competition.

But when new or controversial products arrive on the scene, what does responsible advertising look like? Through open, evidence-based debate, the AA seeks to balance the benefits of advertising with legitimate concerns about products such as payday loans and gambling.