As the industry finishes for Christmas and the New Year, our Chief Executive Stephen Woodford has sent a message to our friends and colleagues from across our membership and the wider industry to wish them a happy festive period and to look back on another exciting year for the Advertising Association…

As this year ends, I want to say a big thank you on behalf of all of us the AA to the brilliant people and organisations from across our industry for their support through this year. We started 2018 with our LEAD summit in January, then launched our AAccelerate pilot programmes in Scotland and the West Midlands to help SMEs to advertise better, founded the Promote UK group to increase exports of UK ad services and launched, with NABS and WACL, the timeTo movement to combat sexual harassment in our industry. The industry has responded to this challenge with over 170 companies signing up the new code and terrific media support for the ‘Where do you draw the line’ campaign, created by Lucky Generals.

We have been very active in key policy areas for AA members, such as HFSS foods 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 in DCMS, DIT, BEIS, DExEU, DHSC and Treasury. 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 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’ve established a Cannes partnership team, with support from Dept. of International Trade, Channel 4, Clear Channel, Framestore and M&C Saatchi, to promote the UK as the pre-eminent international hub for advertising. We’ll be taking this story to 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, chaired by the IPA’s Paul Bainsfair and ISBA’s Phil Smith, expect to hear more about what we all need to do at LEAD on 30th January. We’ve had deep engagement and collaboration from all parts of the industry on this, as we have had on our all other work. 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 3 major reports from our Credos think tank. All this demonstrates the extraordinary ability of UK advertising to come together to tackle the big issues we face and make the most of the opportunities before us. It is one of our greatest strengths and one I know is admired by colleagues in other countries.

Though we’re ending the year with the complete lack of clarity about our future outside the EU and likelihood of sluggish economic growth in 2019, our forecasts for advertising is predicting +4.9% growth in media spend in 2019. With every £1 spent on advertising generating £6 of GDP, advertising’s key role in helping Britain’s business grow, innovate and export has never been more important.

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.

Stephen