Following the announcement by the Government of an extension to the UK’s lockdown to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Advertising Association CEO Stephen Woodford has issued this statement:
“Firstly, I want to recognise the incredible efforts of key workers across the UK, particularly those on the front line in the NHS, to protect the people of our country at this time. I think I speak on behalf of everyone in UK advertising that the work they are doing to keep us safe will never be forgotten. Secondly, I want to pay tribute to speed, breadth and scale of the Government’s response to the economic challenge and the measures announced so far are welcome and vital to protect jobs and our economy so it can revive quickly post the crisis.
The lockdown must continue for as long as the scientific advice says it is necessary to save lives. UK advertising has adapted almost instantaneously to keep business moving. There is innovation everywhere through the introduction of new remote working practices and ingenious solutions to the challenges we face. Advertising is still being created and brought to audiences, increasingly to help deliver essential public health messages but also to keep people informed and entertained as the general public adapts to life in the lockdown. But, even with this entrepreneurial spirit in full effect, the lockdown is having a high impact on jobs and livelihoods as many marketing and advertising budgets are put on hold at this time. The longer the lockdown continues, the greater the adverse impact on our industry, whatever measures the government introduces to support the economy.
We put in place a tracking survey via by our thinktank, Credos, when this crisis began to monitor the views and experiences of our industry’s leaders. The second wave of research was completed just before Easter and it is informing our conversations with government. Right now, our ask is three-fold – to provide clarity around its exit strategy at the earliest opportunity, to continue to refine the schemes it has put in place to help businesses survive to make sure they work effectively and to work with our industry in partnership to secure the best possible social and economic recovery post Covid-19.
The biggest concern for our industry’s leaders is around the uncertainty. We saw this with Brexit too, that the biggest challenge for any business planning to provide security for its staff and continuity of its services, is simply not knowing what the future holds. It is with this in mind that we ask the government to publish its lockdown exit strategy at the earliest opportunity. No matter how long it might take, it is better for everyone responsible for the critical decisions to keep our economy functioning that we have the ability to plan ahead with the most amount of certainty possible.
We know also from the tracker that there has been widespread uptake of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. While this is a good thing, we are conscious we have many thousands of professionals in UK advertising who are not only socially isolated, but they are now also cut off from their work colleagues. Our charity, NABS, is proving to be a vital support line for many, and it is heartening to see efforts across the industry, from the likes of the IPA whose training programme is now free for the next six months, to provide as much support as we can our furloughed colleagues. We have to help everyone in our industry who is being impacted by the lockdown and we continue to explore ways we can do this.
According to our tracker, the prospects for the immediate future are tough. Issues such as cash flow and jobs likely to become ever more apparent during this next quarter. We know there continues to be challenges in businesses being able to access some of the other schemes offered by government and we are pushing daily for these issues to be addressed so companies can get access to the support they need.
Despite all this, our leaders in UK advertising are cautiously optimistic for the longer term. This is important because our industry is a key engine of the economy – we know that when money is spent on advertising it creates jobs. Right now, we are preparing plans, working with different departments within government including DCMS, BEIS, DIT and the Treasury, on how advertising can revive our economy from its current state of paralysis and bring about a recovery which helps everyone.”