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Britain’s pre-pandemic advertising industry was in fine fettle, with exports jumping 7% over 2019 to hit £11bn as part of a broader rebalancing from EU to international trade, according to the Advertising Association.

The trade body’s latest annual UK Advertising Exports Report credits the US as Britain’s biggest single market, importing £1.1bn worth of advertising and market research services, ahead of France (£785m), Germany (£712m) and Switzerland (£643m).

 

A shift from EU to international markets

  • According to the UK Advertising Exports Report 2021, EU nations as a whole accounted for 40% of all British advertising, market research and opinion poll services in 2019, rising to 42% with the inclusion of EEA nations.

  • This marks a significant decrease in trade from the year before when the equivalent proportion stood at 53% and helps quantify a general reorientation of trade toward international markets.

  • Since 2016, the number of advertising and market research firms has remained relatively stable at around 22,700 registered businesses, but the proportion engaged in export and import activities has surged.

  • In 2017, the proportion of registered companies that had either exported or imported goods and services stood at 25%, with just 15% active in both directions. A year later the respective figures stood at 37% and 16%.

  • Broader shifts also saw imports rise 58% compared with 2018, reducing the overall balance of payments by 33%.

 

What reaction has the report elicited?

  • The stats and trends were welcomed by both government and industry, with Graham Stuart MP and minister for exports saying: “It is clear the industry is reorienting to the fastest-growing international markets, which, with government support, places the sector in the best possible position for the future.”

  • The Ad Association was even more ebullient, with chief executive Stephen Woodford adding: “These are outstanding figures and offer some much-needed positive news after a tumultuous year for our industry and the entire global economy.“

  • Janet Hull, chair of the UK Advertising Export Group (UKAEG), commented: “UK advertising is the world’s center of excellence and a gateway for companies looking to go global. We can work with China and the US on the same day.“

 

What does the future hold?

  • The full impact of last year’s events have yet to be registered and won’t be quantified until next year, but are unlikely to make for such pleasant reading.

  • With the vaccine roll-out progressing well and the global economy beginning to show signs of life, forward-looking indicators are beginning to look more positive.

  • This is reflected in data gathered by Credos as part of a poll of UKAEG members, which elicited a surprisingly upbeat message from many keen to embrace the opportunity of online events and remote working to transcend the limitations of geography.

  • Not everything was a garden of roses, however, with respondents still expressing anxiety around the dual repercussions of Covid-19 and Brexit, which have led to travel restrictions and budget cuts, hampering business development.