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As an adman, how should I vote?

As an adman, how should I vote?

How should the ad industry vote on May 7? Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising at ISBA, tells us which box he’ll be ticking.

It’s too good an opportunity to miss making a few comments around the massive decision the population is very shortly about to make.

Media comment is already frenziedly telling us that we’re in uncharted political waters and that no single party will have an operating majority, so wholesale political horse-trading will follow.

And it’s a very good time for some media owner revenues – notably out-of-home and the newsbrands. As Lord Tim Bell reminded us in The Telegraph recently, posters kick ass (or are at least seen to) when it comes to elections.

Marketing magazine ran a really good piece on the parties’ manifesto promises (I hesitate to use the firmer word commitments, see below), so I don’t need to reheat that good work here, but these are things we’ve highlighted as relevant to our industry from all the blurb.


…will set maximum permitted levels of sugar, salt and fat in foods marketed substantially to children.

…promise better to protect children from TV advertising of products high in sugar, fat and salt, and will ask the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Advertising Standards Authority to report on how this can be done more effectively.

…will ‘crack down’ on high-strength, low-cost alcohol products that ‘fuel binge and underage drinking’.

The Liberal Democrats

…would also further restrict the marketing of ‘junk food’ to children, including restricting their advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed; maintain the effective ‘Five a Day’ campaign; and encourage the traffic light labelling system for food products and publication of information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in restaurants and takeaways.

…also propose a digital ‘bill of rights’ enshrining consumer privacy and support the digital single market.

…will monitor e-cigarettes carefully as a ‘health’ product and impose minimum pricing for alcohol.


…propose funding local authority public health budgets.

…would protect intellectual property by continuing to require internet service providers to block sites & proxies that carry large amounts of illegal content.


…promise minimum pricing on alcohol…and extra funding for BBC Scotland!


…I’m told “Nothing. Absolutely nothing”!

And all parties broadly agree on:

…building out mobile coverage to ~90% of UK landmass and high-speed broadband to ~95% of UK population by 2017.

…a traffic light-based food labelling system.

…tobacco: plain packaging; kept and sold from behind counters.

…freezing the TV licence fee (aka BBC price freeze, an increased role for Ofcom and keeping Channel 4 publicly-owned.

Our political advisors suggest that, like most manifesto ‘pledges’ (I’m thinking tuition fees here), most of these promises could be cast aside, particularly if – as is likely – there are complex negotiations for power after the election.

It’s also worth reminding ourselves that despite our undoubted and now proven contribution to the economy, employment and UK plc’s leadership in e-commerce, our industry is but an eddy current in the swirl of policy promises; small change to be nickeled and dimed for greater purpose in much bigger negotiations over pensions; welfare; health, education and defence.


Talking of politics, the Advertising Association’s recent and excellent Lead 2015 event saw calls from leading industry figures for yet greater ‘responsibility’, doubtless playing to Westminster sensitivities.

It also had a ‘hustings’ session, where Labour’s Chris Bryant (fresh from a high-profile contretemps with Eton-educated singer James Blunt over privilege), Conservative Maria Miller (who resigned as Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport after controversial expenses) and a Liberal Democrat pitched themselves and their parties’ policies.

LBC’s Nick Ferrari moderated and provided the crossfire and the senior industry audience was asked to vote on who had been the most persuasive. Bryant won by a landslide – over 80% of votes – though I felt that the result was perhaps rather more an indication of the audiences’ voting intentions than the merits of the arguments presented, many of which were pretty thin.

Which of course got me thinking…

One of the significant differences in the parties’ pitches in this election is the so-called ‘mansion tax’.

It’s a Liberal Democrat conceit that has been adopted by several other parties, not least Labour, whose leader recently averred that it would be implemented ‘within weeks of taking power’. Other adherents to the tax will likely jump to match his promise.

It’s something you might think would be of pretty keen interest to many of our industry’s leaders, many of whose success is reflected in where and what kind of home they live in. Many, many nicer houses in London and the Home Counties now tip the scales at over £2m, the widely-publicised threshold for the tax, however it might be calculated.

Then The Times tells us that people affected by the tax might also have to pay dearly themselves for ‘valuation’. Pure Kafka.

Many people I know – and not only those whom might apply to – abhor the concept of and motivation behind this ‘mansion tax’. People at or near the ends of successful careers or lives with diminishing incomes are amongst those likely to be affected. They will find themselves taxed incrementally and quite arbitrarily on what could well be their only home – one for which they have worked and saved quite hard – simply because they are ‘fortunate’ enough to live in a goodish home in a goodish area where property prices consistently outstrip the average.

It’s frankly as chilling as it is inequitable. So much for ‘fairness’, then.

If we are to believe what we read in the press – that the spoils are earmarked for funding things far away in a territory that is very likely vigorously to continue to seek independence form the UK in spite of its failure to vote thus when it had the opportunity recently – it just ices an already very foul-tasting cake.

So not only is this one of the most interesting and closely-fought elections of our time, but there is an issue at its core which has some parallels with the ‘poll tax’ of the late eighties. And we can remember what that led to.

So it will be at least as interesting to see whether people will stick to their political principles in the teeth of such a prospect.

So much for a concrete reason not to vote. Fortunately, there’s a huge positive too. The latest AA/WARC figures show that the ad economy is really bouncing back now.

We all know – and it has now been repeatedly shown – that advertising is an effective leading indicator (or bellwether) of the economy, so the data further confirms an economic recovery that is palpable to business.

A recovery that could only have taken place through effective Government which has made hard choices in order to repair the damage left by its predecessor. Which happen to be Conservative and Labour, respectively.

You would imagine that anyone in business would subscribe to the argument – as do I – that you have to have revenue to be able to spend it; the alternative being the further borrowing which has proved so disastrous.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably in little doubt as how I’ll be voting on May 7. I just hope many of you will join me.


‘ ‘ – indicates a caveat and/or some cynicism
” ” – indicates a quotation

Do you agree with Bob? Leave a comment below if you think differently – and let us know why.

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Neil Sharman, Consultant, Neil Sharman, on 01 May 2015
“Nigel, the Mansion Tax Riots might be a bit like the "London Backlash over Ed's Non Dom Attack" (recent Evening Standard headline). If the London mob will rise to defend non-doms they are sure to rise to attack the mansion tax. Dark days.”
Nigel Jacklin, MD, Think Media Consultancy, on 29 Apr 2015
“I remember taking part in the poll tax riots; would like to watch the mansion tax ones!”

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