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Britain’s advertising industry is entering a period of unprecedented uncertainty in rude health, according to the latest analysis by the Advertising Association which found that exports rose 15% to £7.9bn in 2018.

The UK Advertising Export Report 2020 confirms the UK enjoyed the largest balance of payments surplus for advertising in Europe of £3.6bn, with advertising exports growing from £2.4bn to £7.9bn in the decade from 2009. The US is the single largest market for UK advertising services, purchasing £1.1bn of work, closely followed by Germany on £1bn with France contributing £733m to the total pot.

The jump means advertising has now leapfrogged telecommunications and engineering services to become the nations second-largest services sector export behind computer services, with service sector growth as a whole increasing by just 2%.

Such ebullience is unlikely to survive the ravages of coronavirus, however, with the latest  eMarketer predictions for global media ad spend growth being pared back from 7.4% ($712.02bn) pre-crisis to 7% ($691.7bn) today, amid warnings that heightened uncertainty means any predictions should be treated with caution.

Stephen Woodford, Advertising Association chief executive, said: “This new report demonstrates the continued strength of the UK as a global centre for advertising and marketing services. To have jumped into second place as an export among comparable industries is a genuine demonstration of UK advertising’s strategic, creative and technological strengths. 

“It is something we should be rightly proud of. We are determined to throw all our energies into building on this position of strength to enhance the UK’s status as a world-class hub for responsible advertising that makes a valuable and trusted contribution to people, society, businesses and the economy.”

The measured uptick came despite a period of uncertainty pertaining to the 2016 Brexit referendum and dovetails with the launch of the UK Advertising Export Group, a partnership between government and industry to promote the sector worldwide.