The Unlimited Group's chairman, Tim Bonnet has described Brexit and the triggering of article 50 as "an opportunity" for Britain to find a way to internationalise its service sector including marketing, and warned that the London industry needs to "look outside of the Soho bubble" to understand the issues that led to the referendum result.
On the week that prime minister Theresa May began the process of taking Britain out of the European Union, Bonnet, who was speaking at The Drum's Agency Acceleration Day, was asked how the triggering of Article 50 was likely to affect the Unlimited Group. Unlimited, owned by Creston, currently employs around 1,000 members of staff and owns agencies such as TMW, 18 Feet & Rising and Nelson Bostock . During his answer, Bonnet expressed his view that Brexit holds a lot of learnings for London-based service companies.
"This whole Brexit thing is very interesting for all of us and what we should be doing is using it as an opportunity," he stated. "17 million people voted for it- half the population, however you would be hard pressed to find too many Brexiteers in the London marketing sector. If you think about when the vote was - during Cannes - most of the agency heads were in their hands while they drowned their sorrows in bottles of rosé, thinking "what on earth is going on here?"
He continued to explain why he felt it was necessary for the London advertising sector to begin to understand why Brexit was taking place.
"The reality is that half the population outside of our Soho bubble actually voted to leave. Diversity has been a big thing on everyone's agenda and what we need to think about is whether we have the views of the British population. If we are selling Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire puddings, do we have people who really understand what is going on in the suburbs? Unlimited has over 350 people [and] one of the largest offices outside of London and we need to recognise that we need more input from people outside of the Soho bubble.
"We should be really looking to work with the government to see this as an opportunity. We manufacture very little over here but what we are fantastic at is the service industry. Actually if you look at places which are growing, such as the likes of India and China, they are absolutely amazing at manufacturing and exporting and we should be encouraging the government to do more trade deals and find ways to make it easier for our fantastic service industry to work in an international way."
As to how Unlimited would respond, Bonnet said that it was working hard to monitor the situation over the coming years.
"We have a good international foot print and we are looking at how best to work on an international basis. We are looking at how we change the way we get input in and we are embracing the new apprentice scheme, and many are talking about it as an 'apprentice tax' rather than an opportunity. How do we recruit more diverse and interesting people? We are looking at how [to] make sure that we are in the best place possible to export our types of services to Indonesia, China, Germany, Brazil, etc to make the most of this and we need to watch that process to make the most of it."
Outside of London, the Unlimited Group has offices in Bristol, Surrey, Hampshire, New York and international partners Serviceplan and Ariadna.