A LEAD Special

Brexit (what else?) was top of the agenda yesterday, as business leaders descended on King’s Place for advertising’s sixth leadership summit. The backdrop was news that adspend had performed admirably in the first full quarter after the vote to Leave, rising 4.2% year-on-year in Q3 2016. That was enough for The&Partnership’s Johnny Hornby to get an invite to Ian King Live to talk about UK advertising the night before LEAD.

It was an early start for delegates, as the Culture Secretary made room in her diary to open the morning. With new Deloitte data showing that £20bn of adspend returns £120bn to GDP, and a green paper for the future of British industrial strategy all out in the same week, the risks and opportunities of Brexit were all anyone wanted to talk about.

Karen Bradley set out to “reassert the Government’s support for advertising” and her speech did not disappoint, calling UK advertising “the best in the world” and noting its catalytic effects across the economy as well as its own contribution, before asking industry to speak-up as to how Government can transform and futureproof advertising as we leave the EU. For the inside track check out our work so far on Brexit here.

It was then over to Newsnight’s Evan Davis to get stuck into the Big Brexit Debate with a live poll. If it all happened again tomorrow, how would the great British public vote? Remain, said a 300-strong industry crowd. Wrong, said pollster Deborah Mattinson, picking at the London-shaped scab that might be keeping advertising from playing at full-strength.

As Evan (ably assisted by the Daily Mail’s Isabel Oakeshott) picked questions from the audience, it was down to AA Chairman and adam&eveDDB boss James Murphy to give the view from inside adland – optimism borne of necessity, with business decisions still balancing on a knife edge. And if the crowd were keen to pick through the wreckage of the Remain campaign, it was KPMG’s Brexit expert Mark Essex who encouraged everyone to face forwards and protect the UK’s ad-advantage.

How to top that? The Independent’s Steve Richards gave his helicopter view of political power in 2017, before attention turned to Winning Over Westminster. Advertising’s Big Questions author Paul Feldwick and his son, strategist Oliver took a look at the message, while RadioCentre’s Siobhan Kenny and MediaCom’s Karen Blackett tackled the medium. If it’s the AA’s bread and butter of political engagement that keeps you reading week to week, these are the sessions to check out first.

But it wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, an AA summit under Andy Duncan’s Presidential eye without a dive into advertising’s responsibilities. And in a week where Media Smart published new Digital Advertising Resources for 9-11 year olds, Last One Standing alumnus Alex Steer from Maxus examined Ethics in the Echo Chamber and the idea that if advertising’s job is to change people’s minds, advertisers need to “get comfortable with the idea of debate chambers” too.

Then three differing views on the most urgent issue facing advertising today: The Advertising Pays chapter on small business clearly struck a chord with Lucy Jameson who called on the room to do more for SME-shaped business opportunities. The Guardian’s Hamish Nicklin issued a challenge to defend a free and plural media. But it was the IEA’s Chris Snowdon who topped the poll, with his call for a more strident defence of commercial free speech in the face of single-issue campaign groups.

And finally to Diageo CMO Syl Saller, closing with her view of brand purpose, presented through the lens of Guinness, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker – reinforcement for the messages heard back at the Tate Modern in November with Keith Weed.

As always, thank you to speakers, attendees and sponsors – and we’re always open to honest (so long as it’s nice) feedback. The next sentence in advertising’s Brexit story is published on Tuesday with the latest adspend forecasts from AA/Warc. See you then.

For our ad of the week and more advertising news, click here.

LEAD 2017