Britain’s pre-pandemic advertising industry was in fine fettle, with exports jumping 7% over 2019 to hit £11bn as part of a broader rebalancing from EU to international trade, according to the Advertising Association.
The trade body’s latest annual UK Advertising Exports Report credits the US as Britain’s biggest single market, importing £1.1bn worth of advertising and market research services, ahead of France (£785m), Germany (£712m) and Switzerland (£643m).
A shift from EU to international markets
According to the UK Advertising Exports Report 2021, EU nations as a whole accounted for 40% of all British advertising, market research and opinion poll services in 2019, rising to 42% with the inclusion of EEA nations.
This marks a significant decrease in trade from the year before when the equivalent proportion stood at 53% and helps quantify a general reorientation of trade toward international markets.
Since 2016, the number of advertising and market research firms has remained relatively stable at around 22,700 registered businesses, but the proportion engaged in export and import activities has surged.
In 2017, the proportion of registered companies that had either exported or imported goods and services stood at 25%, with just 15% active in both directions. A year later the respective figures stood at 37% and 16%.
Broader shifts also saw imports rise 58% compared with 2018, reducing the overall balance of payments by 33%.
What reaction has the report elicited?
The stats and trends were welcomed by both government and industry, with Graham Stuart MP and minister for exports saying: “It is clear the industry is reorienting to the fastest-growing international markets, which, with government support, places the sector in the best possible position for the future.”
The Ad Association was even more ebullient, with chief executive Stephen Woodford adding: “These are outstanding figures and offer some much-needed positive news after a tumultuous year for our industry and the entire global economy.“
Janet Hull, chair of the UK Advertising Export Group (UKAEG), commented: “UK advertising is the world’s center of excellence and a gateway for companies looking to go global. We can work with China and the US on the same day.“
What does the future hold?
The full impact of last year’s events have yet to be registered and won’t be quantified until next year, but are unlikely to make for such pleasant reading.
With the vaccine roll-out progressing well and the global economy beginning to show signs of life, forward-looking indicators are beginning to look more positive.
This is reflected in data gathered by Credos as part of a poll of UKAEG members, which elicited a surprisingly upbeat message from many keen to embrace the opportunity of online events and remote working to transcend the limitations of geography.
Not everything was a garden of roses, however, with respondents still expressing anxiety around the dual repercussions of Covid-19 and Brexit, which have led to travel restrictions and budget cuts, hampering business development.