The Advertising Association thinks it can boost the economy by helping more SMEs advertise

Advertising Association's advertising campaign

The UK ad industry sees a turnover of £120bn annually according to figures from the Advertising Association. Now the trade body has announced proposals to help small and medium enterprises advertise earlier in their growth cycles, which it argues could power the economy through post-Brexit uncertainty.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Front Foot event today (31 October), the Advertising Association's chief executive, Stephen Woodford, outlined how the organisation was looking to educate small business leaders and reach out to Westminster and Holyrood to help finance SMEs' first forays into advertising.

The proposal was made directly to Angus Robertson, depute leader of the SNP and former MP for Moray, who was in attendance, as the group looked to establish the support of the Scottish government for a pilot.

On why Scotland, a region that accounts for 4% of the UK's advertising workforce and its eighth and ninth largest advertising centres in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively, has been preliminary selected for a two part-pilot which also includes the West Midlands, Woodford revealed that the scheme has been in the works for around six months, following consultation with SMEs.

He told The Drum: “We’d love to do it in Scotland because we think it would work here. It is a nice ecosystem, great local media and there is a real passion. It is also a great place with a lot of startups. The more we can help them grow, we can demonstrate how this scheme might work. We think it also fits the Scottish government’s agenda.”

The Advertising Association has been investigating why some SMEs are not advertising, and Woodford described the main barriers as a lack of knowledge on the benefits of advertising, the mechanics behind it, the costs and more – but there was also found to be a significant issue with budgets. “High growth businesses are usually rather cash constrained,” admitted Woodford.

The pilots, which are still in the early consultation stage, look to support around 100 businesses across each of the two regions. “We want to reduce the cost and provide the expertise to solve both those problems. We think partnership between industry, government and the SMEs is the way to go forward,” said Woodford.

The tests are reportedly small enough to manage, but large enough to provide a dataset to work with in the instance of a UK-wide activation.

Finally, Woodford was asked what were the best platforms for SMEs to embrace when advertising. His organisation's data and wider industry data suggested that those that embrace four mediums tend to get the greatest return on investment.

He concluded: “We have enthusiastic support from the industry, it’s a first, none of us know what the post-Brexit future will hold, but no one thinks it will be particularly easy. What can we do to ease that.”

The push accompanies the Advertising Association's own campaign to champion the diverse creative talent that fuels the industry and its significant economic impact. The industry-first campaign, called ‘a Great Advert for Britain’, is looking to rally the creative industry, brands, agencies and beyond, to work with the British government to ensure a sensible immigration structure is in place to maintain the free flow of talent post-Brexit.

The launch initially focused on London although activations are to follow for the regions (including Scotland), reflecting that around 57% of the UK’s advertising workforce is outside the capital.

It comes after the Advertising Association and Warc announced a record window of ad industry expenditure in the first half up 2017, up 3.7% to £10.8bn. Despite the industry's largest marketing group, WPP, lessening its profit projections for the second time in two months, the Advertising Association asserts that growth will hold strong into the second half of the year.

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