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‘We can boost the UK’s global reputation through advertising exports’

By Janet Hull | Chair

October 23, 2020 | 7 min read

As part of this week’s Agencies4Growth Festival, we’re asking some of the brightest minds in marketing why agencies matter today. Here, Janet Hull, chair of UK Advertising Export Group (UKAEG), explains how UK agencies can boost the reputation of UK advertising on the global stage


This week, the UKAEG published a new report, Powering Up UK Advertising. The Advertising Association (AA) partnered with PwC and UK advertising thinktank Credos to undertake a micro-economic study, delving into the individual stories, statistics and perspectives behind the companies serving the UK advertising export market.

A wide range of advertising and marketing services companies from UKAEG helped unpick the market as the research team considered three key areas: what drives UK advertising exports; what barriers are there to UK advertising exports; and how has Covid-19 impacted on UK advertising exports over the summer.

Much like The Drum’s new manifesto, we didn’t want to just navel-gaze at the problems when it comes to exporting. Instead, we wanted to provide actionable insights and guidance. Our mission is to support every UK advertising business that wants to grow globally.

The study identified a circle of creativity, talent and reputation at the heart of UK advertising exports success, which are all mutually reinforcing – without talent, you can’t have the creativity to obtain a global reputation, and without a global reputation, you can’t attract the quality of talent required to produce world-class creativity.

The report also identified potential barriers, the biggest being cost – namely, the logistical costs of setting up operations abroad, the cost of foreign business development and the cost of competitive pricing versus local suppliers. Other issues identified were legal and regulatory risks and cultural differences.

Crucially, the research has shown that the size of a company really does not matter when it comes to achieving international ambitions.

We know that the UK is a global hub for advertising services and there is a demand to work with our industry. The opportunity is clear and many businesses across UK advertising and marketing services can benefit as we increasingly look at how we trade with customers around the world.

We believe a collaborative industry approach is required. We have members from across the sector – adtech, creative, production and post-production companies, research, data companies and talent scouts – all working together to boost the reputation of UK advertising on the global stage.

We know that the brands that invest in awareness and values in times of recession and reduced confidence gain even better returns, both during the downturn and when the economy picks up – they recover faster and emerge stronger.

With this in mind, the UKAEG is investing in the brand of UK advertising, based on the fundamental truth reinforced by our recent study. The campaign is led by our Made Global film, developed by UKAEG members Adam&EveDDB and The Mill. It tells the story of the UK’s unrivalled reputation for creativity.

With the right marketing drive, we can ensure international customers turn to the UK’s creative, strategic and technological capabilities to do this in the most competitive way for their businesses, wherever they are in the world. The more companies that join the UKAEG community, the stronger our voice.

An industry action plan

The brilliant insights within this report have enabled the AA and UKAEG to not only develop policy considerations for the UK Government, but also an industry action plan.

Our goal is to provide a policy and industry roadmap that will create the right environment for UK advertising to continue to grow exports in the coming years, into a future that includes the UK’s departure from the EU and its economic and social recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

For example, in preparation for the UK’s departure from the EU, the AA is encouraging the government to continue negotiating trade continuity agreements with existing and new free trade partners. Specifically, for the UK to start bilateral partnerships with emerging and fast-growing markets to generate the greatest benefits for UK exports.

As an industry, the continued success of UK advertising on the world stage is, above all, a testament to its resilience.

The UKAEG community has taken part in a number of virtual events over the summer, including one with the China AA involving more than 40 participants from UK and Chinese companies running in dual translation.

New business opportunities have also opened up through our virtual trade missions to China with the Shanghai International Advertising Festival (SHIAF). As we look ahead to 2021, the UKAEG will be coordinating and running a programme of virtual trade exchanges, at key industry events such as SXSW, SHIAF and Cannes Lions during 2021.

We will also work with the Department for International Trade (DIT) to provide expert counsel on how to access logistical and infrastructure support on the ground in key markets.

Our report highlights concern from companies about how to go about building an export strategy and the costs and logistical challenges involved in doing this. UKAEG companies that have successfully grown their business internationally will be invited to offer advice and guidance to all UK advertising companies interested in growing their business through exporting.

This will include expert advice from Kingston Smith, a leading financial services firm for the UK advertising and marketing services sector. It will provide bespoke information for all UKAEG members via our Export Accelerator – a personalised online tool to build and track a company’s global new business strategy. In addition, the UKAEG will be holding quarterly workshops for its members from Q1 2021 onwards to develop skills and knowledge on how to build a global new business strategy, with a specific focus on establishing a customer base in key markets.

We want companies across the UK to join us on our mission to boost the reputation of UK advertising on the global stage and accelerate their growth in export performance. We will be holding a UK roadshow during 2021 to identify companies from all the creative cities to join our the UKAEG.

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