UK marketing associations appeal for stability as Boris Johnson resigns
As the curtain falls on Boris Johnson’s time as prime minister, leading trade bodies from across marketing and advertising weigh in on what they hope to see from a new leader – and what the industry might expect at this turbulent time.
Prime minister Boris Johnson resigned earlier today / Image via Number 10
Following the resignation of over 50 Conservative MPs from his government, Boris Johnson quit the top job earlier today. While there is a possibility he will remain in position until the autumn, many – including former business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng – say a new leader is needed “as soon as practicable.”
“What now are MPs going to do to repair the dreadful battering their reputations have taken?” asks Alastair McCapra, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
“Public loathing and disgust are no basis for government by consent, and now is not the time to simply move smoothly on or to attempt to weaponize the events of the last few months for political gain.”
He says the opportunity now rests with parliament to “collectively commit to serious change.”
“That means starting with limiting the roles they can take on as second jobs and beginning the process of comprehensively regulating lobbying. Time is short and patience is thin.”
Stephen Woodford, chief executive officer of the Advertising Association, says the priority of the next leader must be a swift addressing of the current cost-of-living crisis, as well as the long-term recovery of the country from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Advertising Association urges the government, in this transition period to a new administration, to deliver clear, consistent leadership with properly informed, evidence-based policy decisions that support jobs and sustainable growth,” he says.
“Advertising brings a positive economic and social contribution, particularly worth appreciating in its role in supporting businesses and jobs during difficult economic times. With every £1 spent on advertising generating £6 of GDP and ad spend reaching record levels of £32bn last year, it is a key element of competition and growth.”
Woodford’s comments come following a tax-payer-funded campaign by Johnson’s government encouraging brands to cut marketing spending in order to divert costs and mitigate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.
However, along with exports exceeding £11bn in 2020, Woodford says advertising “makes a major contribution to the UK’s success and prosperity, and we will ensure that is fully recognized by the new leadership team.”
The IPA’s director general Paul Bainsfair calls for stability and “calm stewardship” to help navigate the volatility of the next few months.
“Having welcomed 10 culture secretaries over the past 10 years, our industry urgently requires stability too in order to be able to fully engage with the evidence on the topics that matter to business and society,” he says.
He noted the uncertainty over a number of issues stuck in the government’s “inbox,” including the HFSS legislation, the Gambling Review White Paper and the Online Harms Bill.
Bainsfair also questioned what would happen to the planned privatization of Channel 4, a policy that was driven by Boris Johnson and his culture secretary Nadine Dorries.
“We need a government that fully acknowledges the value of advertising to the economy and, rather pressingly, that heeds our evidence that diverting marketing budgets to hold down prices artificially at a time of inflationary supply-side costs and weakening consumer demand – as reported that the impending government-funded campaign will encourage UK companies to do – would at best result in short-term switching between promoted products at the cost of damaging the long-term growth of brands, businesses and the economy as a whole,” Bainsfair says.
The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba) declined to comment on Johnson’s departure.
Additional reporting by Hannah Bowler.