A Christmas message from our Chief Executive…

As this year ends, I want to say a big thank you from the AA to the brilliant people and organisations from across our industry for their support. We started 2018 with our LEAD summit in January, then launched our AAccelerate pilot programme to help SMEs advertise better, founded the Promote UK group to increase exports of UK ad services and launched, with NABS & WACL, timeTo to combat sexual harassment in advertising.

We have been very active in key policy areas, such as HFSS advertising, gambling and making our voice heard in the Brexit cacophony. We’ve had extensive political engagement with all parties in London and Scotland and civil servants across Whitehall. As we end the year with political gridlock, we hope in the New Year that some way is found to secure a withdrawal agreement and a transition period, so vital to ensure business have the certainty to invest and grow.

Talking of growth, we will be supporting the stellar growth of UK advertising exports via our new role as UK representative for Cannes Lions. We’ll also be promoting UK advertising at SXSW and the Shanghai International Advertising Festival too and Credos, our think tank, will be producing a major new report on the UK advertising’s export performance.

The AA is the organisation where the whole industry comes together to tackle the big challenges we face and there is no more important one than public trust. With the leadership of our new President, Keith Weed and our Trust working group, expect to hear more about what we all need to do at LEAD on 30th January. We have exciting plans in 2019 for our Front Foot programme, led by new Chairman Mark Evans from Direct Line and next year will also see three major reports from our Credos think tank.

So here’s to a good solution to the Brexit conundrum and to another year of progress for our fantastic industry. At time of writing the latter seems much more certain than the former!

With very best Christmas wishes from the AA team.


Read Stephen’s full message on our website here.

The 12 AAs of Christmas

On the twenty-first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…. our final Ad Matters of the year!

We couldn’t resist letting 2018 come to a close without taking a look back at some of our key highlights of the year and, to stick with the festive theme, we thought we’d give you a dozen key moments: Our 12 AAs of Christmas!

LEAD – don’t follow!

Business leaders from across Adland descended on King’s Place on January 25 for advertising’s seventh LEAD summit under the theme “Growth beyond Brexit”. We heard from speakers including DIT SoS Dr Liam Fox MP, Labour’s Chuka Umunna, Former Head of the UK Government Economic Service, Vicky Pryce, WPP’s Lindsay Pattison and James Wildman of Hearst, CEO of Channel 4, Alex Mahonand political commentator, Steve Richards, who gave us his inimitable take on the UK political scene.

Click here to make sure you get your ticket for LEAD 2019, which is focusing on Trust, Trade & Transformation.

Focusing on talent at AWE

March 21 saw a lunch with Bing during Ad Week Europe focusing on talent in UK advertising, how London thrives from the global talent based in the city, and the importance of this creative pipeline. AW Global CEO Matthew Scheckner highlighted the “leading role” of the Advertising Association in bringing industry together as we approach Brexit.

Bing VP for EMEA Ad Sales Axel Steinman was firm in his support for the talent working in advertising, calling them the “critical success factor” for the industry. Meanwhile, Stephen Woodford highlighted the ways the Association has been pressing the case for continued free movement.

Promote UK launches

At the end of March we launched Promote UK – in collaboration with DIT and under the leadership of Janet Hull of the IPA – as an industry group formed to position the UK as the top global hub and centre of excellence for advertising as the post-Brexit transition period approaches.

Since launch, and under the slogan ‘A Great Advert from Britain’, the Promote UK group has taken part in the signing of an MoU between Tencent and the UK Government, forging links with Shanghai International Advertising Festival and China International Advertising Festival. It will also have a presence at SXSW in March 2019.

A record year for UK advertising

On April 26 we held our first AA Front Foot Breakfast of the year, which saw the publication of the latest full year AA/WARC Expenditure Report. This revealed that UK advertising expenditure grew 4.6% to reach £22.2bn in 2017 – the eighth consecutive year of market growth. Continuing the positive results for UK adspend, Q4 2017 saw expenditure grow 6.2% over Q4 2016, with adspend breaching the £6bn barrier for the first time ever in a single quarter to reach £6.1bn.

The event also had a panel session including Catherine O’Neill (EU Media Analyst, Citi), Siobhan Kenny (CEO, Radiocentre) and James Murphy (AA Chair and CEO, adam&eveDDB), who cast their expert eyes on the figures as well as the opportunities for advertising to export internationally and promote regional growth across the UK. You can read our full lowdown here.

AAccelerate for Growth 

On July 18, we proudly launched the UK’s first ever one-stop shop ‘how to advertise’ website for SMEs. The site is a key plank of AAccelerate, our first-of-a-kind initiative to boost the growth and productivity of the UK’s 5.5 million SMEs. The aim is to enable them to advertise their services to a wider audience across a range of different media and reach untapped growth and new markets. It is our response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The website provides advice and information on how advertising can impact business growth, how to get started on a successful campaign, jargon-busting, templates and more. The AAccelerate project has gone from strength to strength with pilot SME programmes launching in Scotland and the West Midlands over the course of 2018. Our Scottish launch on June 10 featured a reception at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh (pictured). Watch this space in the coming year!

#timeTo launches to combat sexual harassment in industry  

In March, we launched the timeTo campaign to combat sexual harassment in the advertising industry in partnership with NABS and WACL. Over the course of 2018 the initiative has seen a number of milestones, including the launch of the findings of a survey into the prevalence of sexual harassment in the industry. This was accompanied by the launch of a Code of Conduct for businesses  and organisations in our industry to sign up to – now numbering over 165.

At the end of October a multi-channel advertising campaign launched with creative from Lucky Generals asking the viewer “Where do you draw the line?” The campaign was updated at the very end of the year to co-incide with the Christmas office part season and include topical harassment scenarios that might occur at this time of year. Read more on timeTo here.

Return of the Mac!

At our President’s Reception in June, industry legend Tess Alps was presented with the Mackintosh Medal, which recognises outstanding personal and public service to advertising. The medal has been awarded just 10 times since 1980.

Prior to joining Thinkbox where she is now Chair, Tess was Chair of the PHD Group in the UK. She has also been involved in various charitable projects in our industry; she is a Past President and Honorary member of WACL, a Patron of NABS.

Referring to the medal and its prior recipients, Tess said she was: “Very grateful for this incredible recognition and to be joining the ranks of such illustrious company”.

Welcoming our new President and FF Chair

We welcomed Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMCO, as our new President and Mark Evans, Direct Line Group’s Marketing Director, as our new Front Foot Chair.

As President, Keith has been working with the AA Council and Board to guide the strategic direction of our work as we continue to tackle the challenge of rebuilding public trust in advertising, partner with Government to showcase UK advertising and help to grow the wider UK economy with our SME advertising initiative.

Mark Evans is leading the Front Foot network’s voice as Chairman, particularly around the issue of trust in advertising. Front Foot also funds Credos, the advertising industry’s think tank, which has produced world-leading work on our industry.

In Front Foot we trust!

Speaking of Front Foot… On October 12 we held another Front Foot breakfast event, this time focusing on public trust in our industry.

The event included a warm welcome from Mark Evans and an exclusive insight from IPA Director General Paul Bainsfair and Karen Fraser MBE, Director of advertising’s think tank Credos, on new research undertaken on what the public thinks of our profession.

It was an interactive session with guests discussing the findings in groups. The feedback was then shared with the AA’s Trust Working Group in order to come up with solutions to restore public trust in advertising.

Media Business Course: All things Brighton beautiful

In November we welcomed 120 of the stars and leaders of tomorrow to the Sussex coast for the 54th Media Business Course in Brighton last week. Karen Fraser kicked things off, followed by three and a half days with some of the industry’s best speakers. Highlights included; Rory Sutherland, Karen Blackett OBE, Richard Eyre CBE, Nils Leonard and Tracey De Groose.

Dom Dwight, Marketing Director at Taylors of Harrogate, delivered the brief for Yorkshire Tea – to encourage 1.2m new households to embrace the uplifting and comforting refreshment of a proper brew by 2021. Simple, right? After a few late nights working on their pitches and blood, sweat and tears, the final four syndicates were put through to the final and the winners were announced.

Parleying with Parliament

On 20 November, over 80 people from the worlds of advertising and politics attended the annual AA Parliamentary Reception in Westminster. The event showcased the Promote UK initiative, which aims to increase exports of British advertising services. It also featured successful recent campaigns from Above+Beyond, adam&eveDDB, Framestore, M&C Saatchi, MBA, and Nexus, demonstrating the innovation and expertise which are hallmarks of UK advertising.

You can read more about our Parliamentary Reception here.

Christmas adspend figures

We released our Christmas adspend figures, which revealed that advertisers were expected to spend close to £6.5bn on seasonal advertising this year. That’s a 5% increase on the record amount in 2017. The competition to be the top Christmas advertiser is hotting up!

Our Chief Executive, Stephen Woodford, commented: “Our Christmas advertising season is the envy of the world, thanks to the brilliant, creative talent working in our industry. The joy of this advertising period, seeing what brands bring out each year, is an integral part of a great British Christmas..”

LEAD 2019, 30 January – Get your tickets!

The Advertising Association’s annual summit – LEAD – brings together over 300 people from agencies, brands and media to debate the role, rights and responsibilities of advertising. With contributions from Tom Watson MP, Mark Evans, Karen Blackett, Steve Richards and hosted by Mary Nightingale, this is not to be missed. It all happens on Wednesday 30 January from 08.30 – 13.00 at Kings Place, Kings Cross, London. You can find out more about LEAD and book tickets here.