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Representing our industry in the fight against Covid-19, now and when the recovery comes

By Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive

March 26, 2020 | 6 min read

At the Advertising Association, we are privileged to represent our incredible industry to the UK government. The Association has been doing this for almost a century – our predecessors played an active role on behalf of advertisers, agencies and the media during World War 2, for example. The past ten days or so have seen our country hit by the biggest crisis it has ever faced in peace-time and, our industry, like every other service and manufacturing industry has been turned on its head by the rapid impact of Covid-19. The disruption will be massive and what it all means for our industry is still unfolding but, for now, I wanted to share our experiences to help frame how our industry is being supported by government.



Our engagement with UK government is at an all-time high. This is obviously needed and a very good thing. We have multiple government departments requesting daily information on what is happening and what is needed to try to reduce the impact, save jobs and businesses and keep advertising, a vital engine of the economy, operational. Our team is in regular conversation with Ministers and officials from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for International Trade and the Treasury.

Our role for them is to gather insights on the on the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis across the industry – advertisers, media owners, agencies, technology companies, production companies and research agencies – and to answer questions the government may be posing. We do this through the many close and collaborative relationships we have with our members, many of whom are trade associations themselves representing the different parts of our industries, such as the Advertising Producers Association which looks after the UK’s advertising production companies, Outsmart which represents the UK’s out-of-home media sector and, of course, the likes of ITV, Channel, 4, ISBA, Google, Facebook, the DMA and the IPA. 35 core members in total, all feeding in front-line information that helps to inform the decisions our government is taking to protect our economy against the threat of Covid-19.

Our experience to date is that we have a government that is taking action and it is doing that fast. We are tracking the daily announcements and, along with our members, are turning these into guidance to help our industry understand what support is being put in place.

But, this is just the first phase. Today, we are stepping up our tracking with the launch of a weekly tracker, led by UK advertising’s think tank, Credos, which goes to senior leaders across our industry. The results will be shared with government tomorrow and will provide a regular benchmark for our industry to help guide the next phase of decision-making.

It is already becoming clear that the next challenge will be the implementation of the measures that have been announced by our government. Can we make the actions, such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, happen fast enough to support the thousands of businesses working in our industry who need it? Can they get the money and support in time? To that end, we are working fast to understand the effectiveness of the implementation, asking what can we learn from the initial roll-out and what more does our industry need?

Looking beyond that, our attention turns to the recovery. I have no doubt our industry will have a key role to play in our social and economic recovery. We are a jewel in the crown of the UK’s creative industries – our status as such is never in doubt and the value of our work is two-fold – we can help to promote behaviours and we can drive the economy to support businesses and jobs. So, the question that is already being asked is how do we recover from this crisis and how do we do so quickly? Can we plan for a recovery that puts us in an even stronger position to deal with other issues that we will face in the coming years ahead, such as climate change?

It’s clear to me that we won’t be returning to ‘normal’ once this crisis passes – we will be entering a new world, a world that will be ‘post-Covid-19’, wise to the threat of a global pandemic and what this means, not just to our industry, but our way of life. Right now, what this world looks like is unclear, but our industry is blessed with hundreds of thousands of strategic, creative, technological and entrepreneurial talented professionals. We are seeing every day incredible examples of creative thinking and work to support our most important key workers and to help people through this most difficult of situations.

I am thinking of things like ITV’s ‘Britain Get Talking’ across Mother’s Day, our national retailers using newsbrands every day to promote special opening hours for NHS workers and the elderly and our out-of-home companies producing Coronavirus public health information ads to run across digital sites up and down the country. I know that the people working in our industry are determined to do whatever they can to support the country and I am certain that, in the face of Covid-19, UK advertising will adapt fast to new expectations, new ways of working and the new opportunities that present themselves.

If you need help and guidance during this period, we, and our fellow members, are there to support you. Please do get in touch with us, or your relevant trade association, to make sure you can access the support that is in place and can help shape the requests we are making of government, both for now and for our industry’s future.


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