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Save Channel 4 and scrap HFSS ban: ad industry issues demands to new prime minister

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By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

September 5, 2022 | 8 min read

The ad industry reacts to appointment of Liz Truss as prime minister of the UK.

number 10 downing street

Find out how the ad industry’s trade bodies are responding to the news/ Image via Creative Commons

While Boris Johnson was in power for less than three years, in that time he oversaw several significant policies impacting the nation’s advertising industry – many of which the sector will continue to grapple with long after his exit from Number 10.

As Liz Truss is announced as successor, we ask the ad industry’s trade bodies for their reaction to the appointment of a new Conservative leader.

Sue Eustace, director of public affairs at the Advertising Association

We would like to congratulate Liz Truss on her appointment and we look forward to working with her government to establish the best environment for the industry to thrive.

In the hard times, businesses face in the months ahead, investing in advertising can help grow businesses and position brands better in the market. Advertising also brings consumer benefits as it drives competition, innovation and consumer choice. These in turn help lower prices, helping people facing a cost of living squeeze.

The UK is a global leader and exporter of advertising and marketing services. We have always attracted the best talent from across the globe, bringing business to the UK and creating more jobs for British citizens. The industry needs to be celebrated and championed for its creativity and contribution to the positioning of global Britain in the world.

But we need government policies that can help advertising businesses through the tough times ahead.

We need regulatory certainty, support for the ASA advertising self-regulatory system and the scaling back of unnecessary regulatory interventions such as the HFSS advertising restrictions. It also means going further.

We encourage the government to look, longer-term, at developing a strategic industrial strategy that will benefit the UK’s leading advertising, creative and professional business services sectors.

Changes to skills policy, particularly the apprenticeship levy, will make a huge difference. Changes to immigration policy would enable companies to continue to attract the best global talent.

And a long-term look at bigger-picture issues like clustering, tax policies and exports that could, in parallel with regulatory stability, help create the right conditions for future success. That should include a proper assessment of the proposal to privatize Channel 4, which has long been a crown jewel in the UK’s creative output on the world stage.”

Phil Smith, Isba’s director general

Advertising has largely weathered the storm and is growing, but there are massive headwinds. What we need from the new government is stability, a clear strategy, evidence-led policymaking – and to listen to advertisers. We want to make change with government, rather than have it done to us.

Boris Johnson stalled on the key reforms our sector needs to be put in place (such as digital competition reform), while others have become mired in political arguments (Online Safety Bill). Worse, his ministers threatened to encroach on our world-leading success story of advertising regulation with food and drink ad bans. Most worryingly, they set in train a damaging, unwanted privatization of Channel 4 which advertisers overwhelmingly oppose.

Our first ask is to drop the Channel 4 privatization. We need government to engage closely with us to bring clarity on the Online Safety Bill. They must work with us on data law reform, and on the future architecture of advertising – from digital competition, to the next steps in the Online Advertising Programme.

For the first time, the Conservatives need to treat DCMS as the economic department that it is, on a par with Treasury/BEIS. DCMS is responsible for swathes of the economy and for sectors which are GDP multipliers – including advertising and marketing, which is an essential driver of growth.

Paul Bainsfair, director general at IPA

First and foremost, we would like to congratulate Liz Truss on becoming prime minister. Given the major issues facing the country, however, it cannot be helpful that we have had to wait two months since Boris Johnson announced his pending resignation.

Liz Truss has the opportunity to be the first prime minister in recent times to be the ‘PM for growth and indeed for the ad industry’. At this time of economic uncertainty and as we face a cost of living crisis, we ask that she recognizes the economic and other benefits that the UK ad industry brings to the UK. Every £1 spent on advertising generates £6 to the country’s economy, advertising enables brand competition and it offers consumers more choice in how they shop and enjoy the arts, sport and culture.

We also ask that she will protect our widely respected, self-funded, and world-leading self-regulatory system, and ensure that it is supported rather than undermined. The Online Advertising Programme, introduced by the previous Conservative government, poses an unwelcome and unnecessary threat to the system, as does its introduction of HFSS ad bans through the Health and Care Act – with which we are glad Truss disagrees - when the existing advertising rules in the CAP and BCAP Codes are already among the toughest in the world.

We hope that Truss will work with the UK ad industry on realizing its global power. We would like her government to acknowledge the success of the UK at exporting advertising services and that the UK is the industry’s global hub. UK advertising exports are currently valued at £11.7bn and with government help, it could be far more.

Another issue for Truss to consider is how to improve the apprenticeship levy which is not working for companies, especially in light of the current pressures on talent recruitment at ad agencies, and how more can be done within education to foster creativity and open up advertising as a career path to young people.

Other areas that we hope to work with the new prime minister on include the industry’s two key initiatives, Ad Net Zero – aimed at making the ad industry reach net zero by 2030 – and the All In Action Plan for building a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Lastly, we hope that our new prime minister can swiftly deliver on her promises of canceling the planned rise in corporation tax, as well as introducing ‘low tax zones’ which will aid SMEs and startups, hopefully including ad agencies, in several parts of the country.

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