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Marketing General Election Politics

General Election 2017: Leaders from WPP, IPA, AA and more react to the shock result


By The Drum Reporters | Editorial team

June 9, 2017 | 13 min read

The result of Theresa May's snap General Election has left the UK in a state of uncertainty with the vote ushering in a hung parliament.

George Gilliatt

General Election 2017: Leaders from WPP, IPA, AA and more react to the shock result

With commentators suggesting it's increasingly likely that the Conservatives will either strike up a coalition between with the DUP or operate on a "confidence and supply" arrangement, The Drum canvassed immediate reaction from industry luminaries.

From their view on Brexit negotiations to how the industry can move forward and what marketers can learn from the party campaigns, here's what they had to say.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP


"Now in incredibly uncertain territory with very little, if any clarity about when, how and what Brexit negotiations will be. Everything is a big question mark. Looks like the DUP might agree to shore up the Conservative majority, but this would be very fragile.

"Maybe there will be another election shortly like 1974. A third election or referendum in three years. The electorate clearly doesn't like political expediency."

Stephen Woodford, chief executive, Advertising Association

stephen w

"Uncertainty is the word of the day and it will be some time before the full picture emerges. What's clear is that on the biggest political and economic issue of the day - Brexit - the task just got even harder, with the potential for that to crowd out almost anything else."

"UK advertising can play its part in a successful Brexit – but only with the right support. Theresa May’s commitment to reducing immigration to the “tens of thousands” risks damaging our ability to attract the best of global talent and investment."

Mel Edwards, chief executive, EMEA Wunderman


"Politics is more alive than it’s been for a while. With 68.7% turnout up 2.5% on last year this is the highest turnout since 1997 showing a more passionate-discussed election. Young voters look like they were far more engaged with a huge turnout at university polling stations.

"We’re going to see instability – not least the possible delay and uncertainty around Brexit negotiations. Even another election and a second referendum don’t seem an unlikely prospect. With that in mind, we in the industry should be looking hard about the new ways that political campaigning works.

"Just broadcasting at message people – even if it’s targeted – is not the way to get people to vote. The Conservatives spent extensively on digital and offline advertising targeting people in swing Labour seats. The Labour party – like UKIP and Trump in 2016 – engaged their supporter base both in direct and on social media. In this election Labour leveraged not only engaged their Facebook fans but also their text and emailed databases asking them to get directly involved.

"This meant donating, sharing, getting on the streets and sharing with their friends on email and WhatsApp.

"It’s the first election campaign where I’ve not only seen my Facebook feed taken over but also had direct messages shared from friends on WhatsApp. This ground swell of engagement worked."

Paul Bainsfair, director general, IPA


"A clear win in this snap election would have provided some much-needed stability, vital to businesses and the economy.

"It’s too soon to make any confident predictions but as many have observed, the business community and uncertainty are unhappy bedfellows - so it's hard to see last night's results in a positive way. That said the possibility of more nuanced Brexit negotiations would be welcomed by most in the advertising world.

"Before this snap election, both the Labour Party and the Conservatives had shown commitment to the creative industries. Whatever the outcome of next few weeks and whatever the makeup of the next government, our political leaders must remember that advertising fuels the economy and that the needs of our industry must be included in Brexit negotiations. And that agencies are – among their various other skills - problem-solvers and well-placed to help businesses succeed even in uncertain times.

"The IPA looks forward to working with government, contributing to initiatives that will drive the economy forward."

Tal Smoller, European media analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence

Tal Smoller

“One thing's for sure - the election outcome will likely result in a prolonged period of uncertainty which puts the already dampened near-term advertising outlook at risk, and is reflected in ITV's share price underperformance on the day.

"Key for the creative industries however is arguably the implications for the looming Brexit negotiations - the potentially reduced likelihood of a hard Brexit could bode well for the industry, which has been a firm proponent of the U.K. remaining the in the single market."

Neil Davidson, managing director and partner, HeyHuman and former senior information officer at the Department of Health


"My immediate reaction after another turbulent evening is let’s get going again. It would have been whatever the final result.

"In my years in business as well as in government I’ve learned that we obsess over the implications of an election result, rather than the big stuff that doesn’t go away.

"Most elections have not affected economic growth, apart from some notable exceptions in the 70s - the UK economy has usually still grown one year after an election.

"My advice is to tackle the direct implications for your industry, business and employees, but the big stuff to fix will mostly still be the same big stuff, whatever the government.

"Brexit (with a potential delay in the process) is still coming and businesses must adapt. Agencies need to focus on change and improving their agility, to take a more international perspective and to seek increasingly diverse talent. By doing this we’ll be focusing on the big stuff, whatever the final outcome and in spite of the limbo we find ourselves in this morning."

Tracy De Groose, chief executive, Dentsu Aegis Network UK & Ireland

Tracy De Groose

"The results of the election and the prospect of a hung parliament demonstrates how divided we have become as a nation - remainers v leavers, older people v young, traditional media v new and a return to two party politics.

"Yet again we are facing more uncertainty. For the sake of our society and our economic prosperity, it is important that we start to come together, including the public and private sectors, to find the common ground and spot the opportunities in what is proving to be a challenging time for UK people and businesses.

"These election campaigns have been some of the most fast-moving and turbulent I can remember, but they have also seen more people and a greater number of younger people participate, which can only be good for democracy."

Rob Sellers, managing director, Grey Shopper


"It’s an interesting result that no-one was predicting until the last moments, and the consequences are still being thought through. On one hand, a hung parliament means ‘uncertainty’ - always an economist’s enemy – already appears to be effecting the markets, perhaps continuing the inflationary pressures on brand owners already being felt following the EU referendum.

"However, there are potential upsides? 'Hard Brexit' is almost certainly off the table, and the election has definitely got a generation of young people energised – which is exciting for everyone, and important for brands that want to understand that part of culture."

Gemma Greaves, chief executive, The Marketing Society


"As a result of the amount of uncertainty it’s not a huge surprise that we are in this situation as there is not a great deal of strong leadership in place to get behind. That shows how important it is to have a strong, bold and inspiration leader which has been absent.

"This result demonstrates how important it is to stick with your convictions with campaign planning. May’s habit of performing a U-turn demonstrated a lack of courage which doesn’t give people confidence.

"What I would tell our members is that in a time of uncertainty it is more important we come together and demonstrate the power of great leadership. If we come together and unite then we can show that together we are better."

Dan Shute, chief executive and founder, Creature


"Today is odd, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. Having spent the last year, almost to the day, decrying the uncertainty that June 23 2016 brought, I now find my political self celebrating a hung parliament. Which, to say again, is odd. Hung parliaments are not to be celebrated. They're awkward, difficult things, that paralyse our political process: and this one threatens to paralyse us when free movement (to coin a phrase) is what we need most.

"What's more, we're most likely to see a Tory/DUP coalition government, and the DUP - I'll try not to get too technical with this - are a bunch of women-hating, homophobic dickheads.

"And yet. And yet. Caroline Lucas returned with 52% of the vote. Diane Abbot crushing it in Hackney. The country saying a hard and fast no to a hard Brexit. Canterbury. An almost-certainly-debunked-by-the-time-you-read-this suggestion that 72% of 18-25 year olds voted. It sounds insane, but there's something about this chaos and uncertainty that feels a little bit like hope. Is it going to help the industry? Is it bollocks. If there's a group that hates uncertainty more than the markets, it's marketing directors, and that’s a sting we’re all going to feel.

"But the youth turned up, and the wheat-vandal got her comeuppance. Fleetingly, I’m going to allow myself to enjoy that a little bit."

John Kampfner, chief executive, Creative Industries Federation


"Today’s result raises concerns about the political stability of the UK in the short term. One thing is beyond doubt, however: Theresa May has seen that there is no clear mandate for the government to negotiate a hard Brexit.

"Federation members were 96 per cent in favour of remaining in the EU when surveyed before the referendum. They saw Brexit is a threat to the continued success of the creative industries, damaging growth and the UK’s global outlook. This general election vote now offers the opportunity to look at the issue again.

"The Federation will push for the UK to remain in the single market and the customs union and against undue restrictions on free movement, which we know will damage the capacity of the creative industries to deliver. Non-UK EU nationals are an important part of the creative economy.

"As we noted [in our previous statement] as voters went to the polls, the Federation will work tirelessly to hold the new government, whatever shape it takes, to account. We will continue to advocate policies that maintain the UK creative industries’ competitive advantage and keep the nation outward-looking and international. It remains vital we secure the best possible deal for the sector during what will be a turbulent period of political and constitutional change."

Paul Frampton Calero, chief executive, Havas Media Group UK


"Corbyn was human and authentic and he connected with the younger audience in a way no political leader has for years. May over did the single-minded narrative around 'strong and stable' but failed to connect and engage in the four weeks of campaigning.

"People struggle to follow all the different policies so it ultimately came down to who do they think is more like them and can represent them. Cameron and May both failed by being arrogantly confident that they they would get the support of the people without making themselves accessible and human."

Catherine Maskell, managing director, Content Marketing Association

Catherine Maskell

"The election may be over but we’re far from lifting any uncertainty, as many had hoped it would. Now everything is up in the air, but the poll result – gains for Labour and the Lib Dems – suggests that we may go into negotiations looking for an exit at the softer end of the spectrum. Sadly, this confusion doesn’t help businesses, advertisers or in our case content specialists as uncertainty feeds into the whole food chain from decision making and new projects to delayed investments and budget sign-off.

"The UK has long been the hub of innovation with content marketing and the technology platforms attracting some of the best talent from around the world. Following this trail, big clients come to the UK to access this talent. However, the uncertainty around whether Brexit negotiations casts a shadow.

"What the industry needs to do is be brave and agile and perhaps learn from some of the already identified campaign frailties and start to change the way we all communicate to our audiences."

You can follow the rest of The Drum's general election coverage here.

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