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UK ad spend buoyant, but future growth depends on 'business-favourable' Brexit

Even in the face of Brexit uncertainty, UK ad spend increased by 5.1% to reach $5.6bn in Q3 of 2018 – but future market growth is dependent on a "business-favourable" outcome from Theresa May's EU withdrawal agreement.

According to the latest Advertising Association (AA) and Warc expenditure report, Q3 of 2018 marked the 21st consecutive quarter of growth for the industry. Clocking in at the strongest third quarter of the year since 2015, the figure indicated a buoyant outlook for ad land in the midst of ongoing Brexit negotiations.

The record investment underpinned the preliminary estimate for 2018 ad spend, which is anticipated to come in £23.5bn, representing a growth 6% year-on-year.

The uptick is being driven by increased spend on digital advertising, which is expected to grow 9.8% in 2019, following on from an estimated 13.4% rise in 2018.

When it comes to the bigger picture, the AA has forecast a more muted 4.6% growth in overall ad spend for 2019, calling on the UK government to provide businesses with clarity on what a breakup from the EU means for them.

Stephen Woodford, AA chief executive, said: "As the clock ticks down to our departure from the EU, it is crucial the government provides the certainty we are all seeking in business."

He said the expected ad spend growth of 4.6% in 2019 would need to be supported by "an agreement with the EU that keeps disruption at a minimum and keeps trade and talent flowing will greatly help this growth. UK advertising is the best in the world and we need a deal that ensures we keep it that way."

The prime minister is under pressure to deliver this as part of an alternative Brexit deal that will win support from MPs across the political spectrum, alleviating the possibility of a no-deal scenario.

James McDonald, data editor at Warc echoed Woodford's sentiment.

“Our projection of 4.6% growth in the UK’s ad market this year is firmly based on a business-favourable outcome from the EU withdrawal agreement, and would mark a decade of continuous expansion since the last advertising recession."

Amid ambiguity over Britain’s exit from the EU, which was only exasperated by parliament’s rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit bill on Tuesday 15 January, the quarterly IPA Bellwether painted a different picture of the industry, saying that in Q4 of 2018 marketers noted no change to their overall budgets; marking the first-time growth has flatlined since 2012.

The AA and Warc report follows on from Enders Analysis forecasting that a no-deal Brexit would plunge the UK ad industry into its first recession in a decade, with spend likely to decline by 3% or £1.4bn.

The UK’s ad industry has repeatedly united behind calls for a no-deal Brexit to be taken off the table.

Earlier today, Edelman released research into the UK public's mindset following the 2016 vote to leave the European Union. It found that seven out of 10 Brits believe society and the government have made them angrier. It painted a picture of a nation that is “deeply divided and uneasy” ahead of Brexit.