Following his recent election as Leader of the Labour Party, the Advertising Association’s Chief Executive Stephen Woodford has written to Sir Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his new role and to outline the UK advertising industry’s position as the COVID-19 outbreak continues. The letter, which is copied below, also includes examples of how industry is assisting in the fight against the virus as well as several policy suggestions that would enable business to better meet and overcome the crisis.
Dear Sir Keir,
I am writing to congratulate you on your election as Leader of the Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition on behalf of the Advertising Association. We are the industrywide body which represents all the parts of the advertising and marketing communications industry, including advertisers, agencies and the commercial media.
Our industry is a catalyst for growth, competition and employment, with around 1 million jobs across the whole of the UK being dependent on advertising. Nearly 60% of our colleagues are based outside of London and every £1 spent on advertising generating £6 of GDP. Advertising is one of Britain’s leading service exports, with nearly £8 billion of export earnings according to latest figures. It is therefore vital that the industry and those working in it are supported as well as possible, alongside all the other industries that advertising helps grow.
This is an incredibly difficult time for British business and the advertising industry, like other sectors, will be hugely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite strong growth forecasts pre-crisis, the disruption caused to the hospitality, retail, travel and tourism sectors, combined with the likely wider economic downturn, is creating significant challenges and uncertainty for the advertising and media industries. It appears that this will also continue for some months to come.
Forecasts show that ad spend could be down as much as 50% in the month of April, with Q2 advertising inventory being cancelled across different media sectors. This is a sector that supports jobs all across the country. Without work, advertising agencies will struggle and without footfall, for some sub-sectors within our industry, such as cinema and Out of Home advertising, this threat is existential.
Whilst we appreciate the targeted support for businesses and workers announced by the Government in recent weeks, we believe that the Government can do more in order to protect jobs and safeguard our industry throughout this difficult period. We support the Labour Party’s continued calls for a greater degree of protection for freelancers and the self-employed and agree that the Government should look to roll out a larger-scale public information advertising campaign on COVID-19. In addition to this, we believe that the Government must widen business rates relief to include other affected sectors and speed up businesses’ access to Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.
As the country pulls together, the advertising industry has itself made a number of contributions as part of the national effort to combat the epidemic. The UK Out of Home industry has launched ‘Grateful Britain’, a nationwide digital Out of Home campaign to pass on the nation’s gratitude to NHS staff and other key workers. Broadcasters such as Channel 4 have joined forces with advertisers to show solidarity and support for the NHS, by creating special ad breaks to promote the #ClapForOurCarers initiative. Equally, brands like BrewDog have diverted their manufacturing focus to producing hand sanitizer, while others have donated produce or a percentage of their turnover to charitable causes.
You have stressed the need for the Government to plan for an exit strategy from the current lockdown and we support a proactive approach in planning for this. As an industry we believe that advertising can play a key role in the economic recovery that will follow this difficult period.
We believe that investing in advertising can be of great benefit to businesses during an economically challenging period and when the economy begins to turn a corner, we will be ready to support businesses large and small up and down the country wherever we can.
We would also echo our industry partner ISBA’s call for a national council of trade associations, which would unite us alongside Government in areas such as helping colleagues return to work and in making sure that support for industry remains in place for as long as this crisis endures and for as long as help is needed by businesses and people across UK advertising.
In addition to this letter we have written to Jo Stevens MP, to congratulate her on her appointment as Shadow DCMS Secretary. We look forward to working with both of you going forward.
If you would like to discuss any of these issues in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact me.