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By Sue Eustace, Director of Public Affairs, Advertising Association
The COVID-19 pandemic meant the Government needed fast and effective collaboration with industry, including our own. For UK advertising, this meant how advertisers could use the power of their messaging to encourage a sense of togetherness and community during the early stages of the pandemic, support the Government’s Enjoy Summer Safely campaign and find ways to restart the UK’s economic and social recovery.
When the pandemic hit and the first lockdown began in March, we immediately established an essential flow of information between Government departments and our industry. Our goal was to provide rapid and collective responses to consultations and lobbying on policies vital to mitigate the impact of the lockdown on our members.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, our Chief Executive joined wider weekly Creative Industry and Professional Business Services calls with DCMS and BEIS Ministers which continued at regular intervals as the first lockdown lifted.
We created opportunities for wider industry engagement with Government departments through the AA’s COVID-19 Business Recovery meetings, which ran fortnightly from March to June and monthly from September. These were attended by three Government departments (DCMS, BEIS and DIT). We also ran similar industry meetings in Scotland with Scottish Government officials and the Scotland Office. One such highlight was the meeting in October with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture in the Scottish Government.
These meetings provided a lobbying forum for members to express concerns on a range of issues, from business rates to credit and production insurance, and to add weight to member initiatives such as guidelines to facilitate the start-up of COVID-safe advertising production. In addition, our team supported members on many fronts, ran regular membership surveys on business prospects during the pandemic and responded to Government requests for information on the effectiveness of Government support schemes.
The meetings also provided a forum to develop our major policy initiatives to help in the recovery from the pandemic. These included our proposal for an advertising tax credit, which was put forward to the Treasury by DCMS, and the ‘Skill up, Power up, Level up’ skills proposal of match-funding for certificated skills training run by professional trade bodies in areas of national jobs shortage.
We supported the Recovery Advice for Business scheme from BEIS which matched industry professionals from across our membership to SMEs to share advice on advertising and marketing services to aid them in their recovery.
This higher level of engagement with Government on behalf of our members will be a key feature of our work in the coming years as the UK deals with the many economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
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