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Talent and Immigration after Brexit: A Media360 panel discussion

/ May 18th 2018

The UK’s advertising industry employs a significant number of people from outside the UK, with 69 percent of businesses across the advertising and marketing communications sector employing people from outside the UK. Of those businesses, fully 17 percent of the workforce is made of EU nationals and more than a third of people who have begun working in advertising and marketing in the UK over the past 12 months have come from within the EU.

All of which is to say that, in line with many other industries, there are significant concerns about how the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy will affect the UK advertising industries ability to retain its prominence on the world stage. Part of the appeal of the UK’s ad industry to global partners is the diverse nature of its workforce, and three-quarters of businesses in the sector are concerned about their ability to retain EU workers after Brexit.

Beyond that, the added bureaucracy associated with operating outside the single market has a significant drag effect on the industry’s ability to deliver on its potential. According to the Advertising Association’s Brexit study, ‘ The single market enables four in ten businesses (42 percent) to send individuals from the UK to other EU countries to deliver services on a temporary basis e.g. fly in fly out. If businesses were no longer able to do this it would add a significant amount of bureaucracy to producing great work’.

Given that the UK exported £5.2billion of advertising services in 2016, up 36 percent YOY, any impediment to the industry’s growth could also have a cooling effect on the wider economy.

The role of advertising

At today’s Media360 event in London, the Advertising Association’s chairman and co-founder of adam&eveDDB James Murphy spoke on behalf of the AA’s members, to discuss what needs to occur after Brexit to ensure the stature of UK marketing firms is not diminished:

Another speaker on the panel, Campaign’s global head of media Gideon Spanier, has previously written about Promote UK’s aims, arguing that

“Some advertising chiefs have voiced fears that Brexit could undermine the ad industry if it becomes harder to hire international talent in the UK or to export advertising services to foreign markets.”

The Advertising Association supports the Creative Industries Federation recommendations on talent, which include allowing same-day access to talent, the provision of reciprocal rights for UK workers to move freely for short-term projects, and allowing employers to bring in EU workers without meeting the minimum salary requirement.

However, there are issues around the rights of EU workers to work in creative industries that need to be sorted on a legislative level. For instance, the Tier 2 visa system is expensive and time consuming, the immigration skills charge placing financial strain on businesses. If the Tier 2 system was replicated for the EU then this would drastically reduce the attractiveness of the UK to EU workers, multiplying the existing issues.

Additionally, there is no one qualification that prepares someone for a career in advertising, requiring that the industry recruits people from a wide range of backgrounds. Consequently a visa system for advertising and the wider creative industries that includes salary requirements would hamstring businesses’ ability to hire people with the right mix of skills, and stifle innovation. Consequently, the Advertising Association urges the government to deliver upon its promises of a truly global Britain, and ensure that there is open and appropriate freedom of movement for those whose skills would benefit the UK economy, to which the advertising industry contributes in no small part. Other examples of the UK ad industry’s ability to flourish in a truly open environment can be found on the Promote UK website.

Murphy used the example of a major UK-based food and drink manufacturer, whose hiring of two candidates from outside the EU led to the company winning enough work to require a new team of 15 other full-time positions, proof that skills from outside the UK can contribute in no small part to the economy.

Header image via Tony Higset on Flickr

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