Six months on from the Brexit vote, The Advertising Association’s annual summit LEAD returned, amassing the agencies, media and brand leaders to deliberate the future of advertising as the unforeseen EU-UK divorce draws nearer. Here are just a few of the key take-outs…

  1. Let’s make our voice heard

The morning commenced with a pun-filled speech elegantly peppered with vintage ad slogans, from Secretary of State for culture, media and sport – Karen Bradley. Frequently complimenting the advertising sector and deeming it as ‘key to the UK’s post-Brexit success,’ a key goal of hers was to urge the industry to feed its data and knowledge in to Number 10 as the EU negotiations commence. Data and knowledge being – what currently works and what doesn’t, particularly around the subject of hiring foreign talent.

Karen Blackett reinforced this shortly after when admitting there exists a number of ministers who just don’t understand marketing. And how it is indeed, our job to help them understand. So for those with government departments as clients, it is down to us to run training programmes. To educate them as to what we do, how we work, and how advertising works.


  1. Get out of that London bubble

Next was the issue of ‘London centricity,’ raised by the ‘The Big Brexit debate’ panel moderated by the BBC’s Evan Davis.

Along with the AA who promote the encouragement of those from more diverse backgrounds to consider a career in advertising, KPMG’s Mark Essex discussed the benefits reaped by his company for its national footprint. They evidently understand the wider public and their various business needs and wants, and only then, marshal the right teams to advise. “Why do you think Adland got Brexit so wrong?” the panel raised. Because the diversity of opinion is imperative. We need to branch out.

Political journalist Steve Richards later hit the nail on the head when recalling an anecdote he heard from someone on the phone six months back: “I’m in a café in Stoke Newington and they’re all voting remain. It’ll be fine!”

Source: Ad Association


  1. Stop creating ‘small ponds’ and ‘echo chambers’

Advertisers like P&G and Coca Cola are beginning to take a step back from the very targeted approach we are so used to aiming for. Because although at the level of creating short-term sales this is effective, if overdone and over-targeted we run the risk of creating ‘small ponds’ for our brands. Meaning, we run the risk of losing the warm-up conversation with consumers that brings them into our brands for the long-run. So as Maxus’ Alex Steer addressed, maybe it’s time we all use more towards mass reach.

Similarly, as advertisers we’re getting all too comfortable in our ‘echo chambers,’ rather than ‘debate chambers.’ In other words, we’re talking to people who don’t challenge us. But if the job of advertising is to change people’s minds, should we not be widening that pool and targeting more of those who disagree with us?


  1. Build brands with purpose

Lastly, Global CMO of Diageo Syl Saller concluded the morning with her talk on ‘Business, brands and responsibility,’ getting us all thinking about “what brands can do to make the world a better place.” An audacious goal perhaps, but nonetheless relevant to the authenticity and transparency consumers so desperately need during the turbulent political age in which they now live.

Showcasing a number of powerful Diageo campaigns to exemplify how brands can contribute more than just their functional benefits to society, Saller explained how leading with purpose is a choice, and how it of course pays both reputational and financial dividends. In fact, Millward Brown proved that the top 50 brands that clearly showed a purpose, had a 400% increase in brand value over a decade, over those that didn’t.

So as Syl Saller said, maybe it’s time we try to create the biggest possible difference every day, ultimately making what we do more meaningful, more fulfilling, and evidently, more fun. “We as an industry have a voice, in ourselves and in our brands that can make an enormous difference to people’s lives. Let’s make sure we use it.”

You can see full coverage of the event here.

Source: Ad Association