Vox pop: agencies react to snap UK general election announcement

Clockwise from top left: Salad, 93 Digital, Dog, The Clearing, That Lot, London, ClearPeople, Heehaw

Following PM Theresa May’s snap announcement this morning to call a UK general election on 8 June, The Drum Network asked agency leaders what the likely impacts of the decision on the UK marketing agency sector might be. Issues such as Brexit, economic uncertainty and the exchange value loom large in the responses. Here’s a selection:

Arabella Lewis-Smith, founder and managing director, Salad

If the Conservative party win, they will have a mandate to take the country through Brexit. One of the issues is that we have an unelected Prime Minister negotiating our Brexit deal. If they win, they’ll be in a much stronger position to negotiate on behalf of the British people. In terms of the impact on our industry, I actually think the answer is two-fold. On the one hand, Brexit has given us a weaker pound and, being famous for our cultural and creative output, our services are likely to be more attractive to foreign buyers than ever before. On the flip side, we have a number of businesses who have pledged to leave and have already started leaving the UK. This could mean potentially less opportunities to see our marketing services used by prestigious British brands. But we’ll have to wait and see.

Alex Price, founder and managing director, 93 Digital

Brexit has brought with it uncertainty, and no industry likes uncertainty, including marketing services. The real question that stems from the snap election is what will the impact be for Brexit? More than ever we need a strong government to negotiate our terms of leaving the EU, and regardless of political stance, if a snap election helps to achieve a stronger majority as figures suggest it might, then it could well be a good thing. For me the UK's access to the talent pool of the EU is critical. The marketing services sector needs great people and I hope a snap election will bring with it the Brexit negotiating strength that we need to ensure this.

Gerry McCusker, chief executive officer, Dog

With the announcement of the snap general election, we find ourselves facing yet more political change. However, as the past couple of years have shown us, change is the new norm. As business leaders, we’ll do what we always do during this type of climate: carry on – seeking out opportunities and continuing to build sustainable businesses. The General Election may throw up a few surprises across the UK. Or it may not. What’s certain is that we’re set to be subjected to heavy campaigning from all parties over the next seven weeks. On the upside, the run up to the election will be brief. And, at the end of it all, as in the wake of the European Referendum decision, I’m confident that our digital industries will be as thriving as ever post-election.

Richard Buchanan, managing director and founder, The Clearing

We might not have seen Theresa May’s announcement coming but we sure as hell know what to expect. It’s been less than two years since the last general election and just ten short months since the UK voted for Brexit.

It‘s this recent history that leads us to expect more of what we saw in 2015 and 2016, in 2017. And by ‘more of the same,’ I mean, more uncertainty. Experience tells us that periods of political and economic uncertainty invariably translates into cautious behaviour amongst clients and brands. In turn giving rise to a culture of ‘wait and see’ that strips momentum from important and significant projects – especially within our area of branding. The net result of which usually leads to a downgrading of growth projections among agency leaders.

The only distinction I’d draw this time around is the opportunistic nature of the ‘snap’ election. Seven weeks from now it will all be done and dusted, and unless the government suffers a knockout blow, which is hard to see given the current political landscape, agency life will return to normal just as quickly as it slowed. However, should a new government be formed, the uncertainty will continue throughout the second half of the year.

So, what does it mean more specifically for us at The Clearing? Quite simply, there will be less project work around in the short-term, and competition to win significant projects will be even higher than is currently the case – which is already extremely high.

David Beresford, director, That Lot

Anything that creates greater uncertainty for the economic outlook can have a negative impact on budgets, including marketing. But... having already dealt with Brexit, the US election and the new Trump world order this shouldn't cause that many ripples. And major national events do create opportunities for great topical content (looking on the bright side!)

Michael Moszynski, founder and chief executive officer, London Advertising

As TV advertising is not an option available to political parties in the UK, I think it will mean more revenue for Facebook video – Google and Youtube advertising has been mired.

As there is only seven weeks to the poll and it is a genuine ‘snap’ election there is little time to invest in other media. I would nonetheless advise a party to invest in classic posters – both digital and printed – to raise awareness quickly.

Prediction wise, I believe the only question is how big the Conservative majority will be. I would expect anything less than a 100 seat majority will be seen as a disappointment, so that is the target for the Conservatives. As we already have a Conservative majority Government, there will be little else to impact on the agency sector. The bigger the majority the more confidence the business community will have in Brexit outcomes so that will help our sector.

Katya Linossi, managing director and co-founder, ClearPeople

Whatever side of the fence you sit on with regards to Brexit, this is a momentous time in our collective history. News of the snap general election doesn’t really come as too much of a surprise to us as Mrs May wants to secure legitimacy for her policies. I feel that for business, it’s actually a positive thing – if Mrs May is elected (and polls suggest this will be the case), her negotiating power will increase and we should hopefully get the confidence that we will have a government who can get the very best deal for the UK once we leave the European Union. Plus, the value of the pound has already slightly increased since the announcement so this can only be a good thing!

Working in the digital communications industry, times like this see the importance of communication come to the fore - whether that is internally communicating with your staff to provide information and reassurance, or communicating externally with your customers to keep them abreast of your latest updates and future plans. We are a proud European company, with just under 50% of our employees coming from the European Union so I certainly want the security and certainty that our colleagues can continue to stand strongly together, united, supported and cared for.

Mally Graveson, managing director, Heehaw

Wow – a snap general election. This is a master stroke from the Conservative Party, and has come at exactly the right time. The Tories have seized the initiative and taken the opportunity to pounce on this feeling of uncertainty (nationally and internationally) and win more seats to ensure they will be the dominant force in Westminster for years to come. What advice would I give the other parties? For some, it’s about serious damage limitations, but for others, it surely must be about promoting yourselves as a different alternative to the conservative way of thinking. They all must stand up, fight, and for the first time, in my opinion, offer a real alternative to our current government. Be bold, be different and be honest. And good luck!

After Theresa May's shock announcement, the general election will take place on Thursday 8 June.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.