The Drum Arms: Brands urged to 'fill the vacuum' after the Brexit fog lifts

Brexit - what next? Brands need to 'fill the vacuum' after the fog lifts

Brands have been reluctant to spend over the last two years as Brexit looms large but “when the fog lifts” they will have to act fast to “fill the vacuum," according to a panel of marketers.

Amid the economic uncertainty, some agencies have reported brands forming more “collegiate” relationships as they look to adopt a positive, entrepreneurial mentality moving forward.

The findings emerged during ‘Brexit - what next?’, a panel at The Drum Arms Advertising Week pop-up, which looked to outline how brands should communicate with people in the post-Brexit (whatever that may look like) Britain.

It was hosted hours after Theresa May said she “hopes” the UK will leave the EU with the deal, pleading for an extension to Article 50 despite the looming EU election.

Amid the chaos, Brexit presents UK brands and businesses an opportunity if they are bold and agile enough to act after the “fog lifts” according to Richard Jukes, chairman of PR company Grayling UK & Ireland, who suggested there will be a vacuum for UK brands to "fill with post-Brexit bliss".

Jukes said that Brexit creates for UK business an “unprecedented unknown" but he said there are some positivess as clients and brands become more open in their dialogue with each other.

“Across corporate, consumer and public affairs, we are having conversations with different people because this is an unprecedented unknown. Nobody can claim to have all the answers or know what is going to happen," he said.

"Therefore, you are in a much more collegiate conversations with clients, not just the ones we have been working with for the last few years business as usual but other parts of the business. Then, there is opportunity.”

As the clock ticks down for a deal to be made, he urged brands to be ready to make a move. “Brands will have to be ready to fill the country with post-Brexit bliss”, he said, "and that work should start now. When it comes, it will come quickly."

That clients are leaning heavier on their partners to guide them through the next steps was a sentiment echoed by Dani Bassil, chief executive at Digitas UK. She admitted that clients have exhibited spending trepidation over the last few years, but that appears to be subsiding as they turn their thoughts to what happens post-March.

“We have had a bit of Brexit fatigue from clients. They did hold back [on spend] but they can’t hold back forever,” Bassil said.

But they still need to talk to consumers, we have to understand how they’re feeling and that is where we can add the most value. We need to use this as an opportunity to create brands that have purpose for consumers... and continue the positive story.

“Brexit opens doors for global opportunity so now is time to focus on that. What is missing from government is an inspiring vision of what this country can become.”

While Bassil is optimistic that clients are now on the road to investing in advertising, there’s a lingering concern of the long-term that the continued uncertainty will have. Following on from a second rejection of Theresa May's Brexit deal in parliament and the prospect of a "disorderly" withdrawal from the EU looming, trade bodies have predicted "brand disinvestment" amid the chaos.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba) previously told The Drum that the continued uncertainty will likely see the industry take a financial hit.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, has been among those to have repeatedly voice concerns. However, he said that one silver lining is the ad industry finally making a concerted effort to work with government.

It was his belief that the EU will reach an agreement with the UK at the final possible moment. Nonetheless, he said the best business leaders can adapt to their environment or even thrive when new opportunities appear.

He said: “In uncertain times, thinking and waiting for bad stuff to happen is wrong, it is about being entrepreneurial and bolder, in tough times always do the counter-intuitive thing, open up trade, and get more foreign talent and diverse talent. There are things in our day-to-day control, people are doing just getting on with it.

“London is by far the most diverse city in the world, that is not going to change,” Woodford concluded.

Listen to the full session below:

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