Vox Pop: Is there light in the darkness of Brexit?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

The future is bright?

The future’s bright. Or is it? Doom and gloom has spread across the media industry, with predictions of declining advertising spend projecting shadows on the industry’s outlook. Recent research by Enders Analysts reveals 2016 to be a ‘wretched’ year for UK news publishes and predicted a 15 per cent decline of print display advertising, a figure the company assumes will be replicated in 2017. In light of this negativity and despair, the Drum Network asks its members, is there hope in the darkness of Brexit for the future of the industry?

Katya Linossi, co-founder and managing director, ClearPeople

Now that the UK public has voted to leave the European Union, communication and collaboration has never been more important, both personally and professionally.

Whatever side of the fence you were on, this is a momentous time in our collective history. I run a proud European digital agency with just under 50% of our employees coming from the European Union and in these times of change, communication is of the utmost importance – whether that is internally communicating with your staff to provide information and reassurance, or communicating externally with your customers to keep them abreast of your latest news, updates and future plans.

As pointed out by the Indian Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley: “In this globalised world, volatility and uncertainty are the new norms”.

Businesses need to positively navigate through this period of uncertainty over the coming months and try to embrace change. If one thing is for certain following the results of the referendum, there will be change. It is therefore important that we stand strongly together – united and supported.

I believe that this is the perfect time for businesses to take advantage of the benefits that the new digital workspace can offer and look at investing in their staff and in the internal communications tools available to them to create the best end-user experience for their clients both in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, regardless of borders.

Kieron Weedon, director of strategy, BWP Group

Is there hope in the dark for the future? Not in the sense of there being ‘light at the end of the tunnel’; this period will not be about battening down the hatches and riding it out until we reach the other side. The impact of Brexit will be seismic across all parts of the UK - if there even is a ‘UK'. However unprecedented Brexit is though, we have experienced similar periods of seismic change and uncertainty and the outcomes will be the same. Those businesses that proactively look to new models and ways of doing business will survive; those that ignore changes in the market will die off. In many ways, the fact that we were hit by a similarly seismic event so recently, puts us in good stead. The 2008 recession forced businesses to streamline, become leaner and more efficient – they are more robust today than then. There is hope for the media industry, but these leaner businesses must now be agile and react again; more close integration with marketing, advertising agencies and brands is key as the lines blur between content and creative; a sharper focus on the ‘value’ of media and particularly the data that sits behind it, rather than just cost; continued development of product, specifically associated to new ways to target specific audience segments at very specific ‘moments’. In short, the media industry must continue to monitor and reflect the changing behaviours and preferences of consumers during this turbulent period.

Rich Henderson, digital account director, JJ Marketing

It is true that there is a lot of pessimism being shared in the wake of Britain’s recent decision to leave the EU but is the gloom of a decision that we can do nothing about now overshadowing the opportunities it is offering us?

Print display advertising spend may be down but the truth of the matter is that newspaper sales have actually jumped since Brexit. Print display advertising is not a reflection of the media industry as a whole. It was on the decline before Brexit and the vote will, at most, just have sped up what was clearly already happening.

Instead of focusing on the doom and gloom, wouldn’t it be better to focus on the hope of the future possibilities for advertising?

Digital is continuing to thrive and connect businesses across the world with their potential and existing customers. This will continue to build as new products are developed and launched, with LinkedIn rolling out programmatic buying of display ads recently being just one of many examples.

The public are consuming news in an entirely different way, and were before Brexit, with social media and mobile being the key players in this development. Print may still account for a substantial amount of news publishing revenue but that is not to say that this revenue will disappear as digital tips the scale.

The media industry is evolving just as every industry is. Do we really need to still be so afraid of change?

Erika Clegg, co-founder, Spring

The British design and communications industry is world class. Yes, Brexit is a shock: but it means that now is the time to prove it. We have no choice in this matter – how we position ourselves now as an industry will make the difference between growth and decline.

Some industries are already in a negative communications cycle, expressing fear about their futures. The theory that people talk up recessions is sound. Of course, we all feel concern but as an industry we must be positive, and where that positivity comes from is our position as a world leader.

Not just that, but it’s our industry that can repair damaged brand Britain, through our own messaging, but more importantly through our work in support of other sectors. It’s now that we need to have the facts to hand that demonstrate that value unequivocally.

So my view is this: if we evaluate our impact, fine-tune our sector narrative around global excellence and make ourselves indispensible across all sectors then we could grow our own industry in profile and value.

James Murphy, digital marketer, AB…the ideas agency

Perhaps a glimmer. Whilst nothing catastrophic has happened so far, the terms with which the UK exits will decide the fate of many in the media industry. However, whilst these terms are being decided – we are in an era of digital uncertainty. Creative Europe, a program which has been set up to support SME’s in the creative, culture and audiovisual sectors will not be available without EU membership and access to the single market is still up in the air. These kinds of programs are vital for start-ups and small businesses.

However, there could be opportunities following the decision to leave. Smaller British businesses who may have been priced out of the market by a cheaper foreign competitor may now have a ‘level playing field’, so to speak.

I think everyone’s biggest fear is that it will cause long term, irreparable damage. Migrants with a degree (as well as growing businesses with an international outlook) may no longer see London as the destination for them – and may flock to Paris/Madrid in order to ensure they reach their full potential, as well as gain access to free movement. Whilst there is no tangible impact – will European businesses want to converse with a country that voted to leave them?

In recent times the EU ensured a working broadband connection for every EU citizen, and the EU single digital market that has been proposed looks set to prosper. A lot to miss out on, but at least ‘we’ve got our country back’…

Damien Bennett, head of strategy, NMPi

I personally don’t think it’s a case of whether or not there is ‘hope’. I think a better word to use to reflect where the media industry is (and in fact where the wider country finds itself), is ‘uncertain’, in that we really don’t know exactly how things will play out because we don’t know what the plan is and what will change.

With uncertainly there are undoubtedly a number of risks that everyone faces, most of which have been covered in other blogs and articles. But with these risks there are also potential opportunities for advertisers. One such opportunity is the devaluation of the pound against other currencies. For advertisers selling internationally a weaker pound means that they should be more price competitive abroad than they have been previously. For agile businesses this could mean that new market opportunities open up that weren’t there before.

Another, longer-term, opportunity is the potential removal of EU data restrictions on UK-based digital advertisers. Presently digital advertisers in the UK must follow EU data policy which means that the latest Google and Facebook features are not available as early on these shores as they are in the US. A change to privacy laws might mean that UK advertisers receive access to the latest Google and Facebook features at the same time as the US giving them an advantage versus their European counterparts.

Fleurie Forbes-Martin, business communication manager, Thinking Juice

For the last couple of weeks I feel like I've been walking through wonderland. I'm yet to wake up. Alas, change (and big change at that) is upon us and despite being opposed to Brexit myself, that is the card we've been dealt. Now we must move with the times and consider - for our own business as well as our international clients - where the risks and opportunities may be. I spent some time interviewing our European and American agencies in AMIN worldwide last week and while I was humbled that they were all shocked and 'heartbroken' about the unexpected break-up, it actually demonstrated that the desire for collaboration and maintaining relationships, remains. If anything, it's even stronger now. I think there will be great opportunities for brands who can embrace the change promptly and invest time and consideration into what their long-term brand strategy will be as a result of the change. Considering some of our clients, I suspect that British heritage brands that operate on an international playing field (like Barbour) will be able to capitalise on the ‘separation’ by telling stories that draw on aspiration, exclusivity and prestige. This is just one example but I have faith that there is certainly hope for us yet, IF we embrace the change with our eyes wide open and ride the wave.

Dave Walby, biddable account director, Navigate Digital

One thing that we can say for certain is that uncertainty is likely to reign for the next couple of years. Uncertainty is, by and large, troublesome for the economy; businesses don’t invest in new machinery, materials & advertising generally suffers (wrongly, of course), foreign companies fear putting any further resources into the country and people tend to save, instead of spending, deflating our economy further. Finding investment might be trickier, selling your products overseas might be more complicated and costly, plus hiring great international employees may be a no go.

The future is, however, far from bleak. Entrepreneurial spirit thrives in uncertainty. Opportunities will sprout out of the Brexit uncertainty & necessary adversity that will be required. The Great Depression of the 1920s saw Walt Disney, Porsche and Lacoste spring up during, or as a result of, the Depression’s darkness. Another example could be Israel, which despite ongoing conflicts, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tel Aviv particularly is as dynamic as anywhere.

David Jolly, account manager, Else London

A new generation has seen in technicolour the mechanics of politics and the media outlets that push their messages. Over the past few weeks we have all taken a deep dive on the complexities of politics in the UK. Infighting of both major parties and a lot of perceived miscommunication. Perhaps it was part of one big plan after all.

As a result, people may be more critical of what they read, who presented it to them and the danger of misinformation. An infographic or meme that supports your previously held viewpoint is shared without a thought. A concern I have is that people are heavily editing the alternative viewpoints they are exposed to on social media as well as advertising. Some viewpoints may be dismissed as wrong, irrelevant or ridiculous yet if you don’t get the opportunity to consider it you are surely worse off.

Our industry is celebrated for being forward thinking. We frequently engage in debate in our job roles and discuss the best options before moving forward. If your idea is not the one championed, you knuckle-down to make the new one the best it can be. The outcome you arrive at is usually not what you first thought it would be. You help to steer it away from failure. Improvements are made if a divisive decision can be used as a catalyst for debate and to bring people back together.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.

Come on in, it’s free.

This isn’t a paywall. It’s a freewall. We don’t want to get in the way of what you came here for, so this will only take a few seconds.