Industry trade bodies react to new government

Industry trade bodies react to new government

As a new Labour government takes office, what issues are top of mind for the media and advertising industry?

Trade body heads speaking with The Media Leader welcomed prime minister Sir Keir Starmer, while also emphasising that UK advertising is “big business”, growing to a £36bn “powerhouse industry” and delivering investment and jobs up and down the UK.

Richard Reeves, managing director at the Association of Online Publishers, observed that before the election Labour showed “a willingness” to engage with the industry, particularly with shadow minister for creative industries and digital Chris Bryant “demonstrating much support” for arguments and requests put forward by those in advertising and media.

Perhaps most influential for the industry will be who is named culture secretary, with many occupying its office over the past 10 years.

“Elections in the UK have never been this volatile, so the pressure will be on the new government to move decisively and make a significant impact quickly,” Matt Payton, CEO of Radiocentre, told The Media Leader.

“The implications for media and advertising are not entirely clear at this stage, especially given the loss of shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire as an MP. Whoever ends up in this important role, I know they’ll receive constructive engagement from our sector in support of meaningful change and economic growth.”

Other industry trade bodies have also reflected on what they see as top priorities for the incoming administration.

5 things the ad industry wants from the new culture secretary

Sustainable growth

Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association, said the UK needs to “remain at the forefront of the data-driven economy” and “creating the conditions for responsible, sustainable business growth is the top priority”.

This was echoed by both Paul Bainsfair, director-general at the IPA, and Phil Smith, director-general at Isba, who made the case for helping Labour deliver its mission of “kickstarting economic growth across all of the UK’s regions and nations”.

Bainsfair added that the IPA hoped Labour would implement its comprehensive Creating Growth Plan for the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries, as delivered at the Labour Creatives conference in March.

A number of key policy areas for the IPA “align” with Labour’s plan, Bainsfair noted, with the need for the incoming government to “champion” the industry and help it “continue to thrive” top of the list.

Less short-term thinking

Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s CEO, wished for “some long-overdue stability” for the business community.

“Political instability has meant years of uncertainty. This has trickled into advertising and contributed to an atmosphere that has favoured shorter-term thinking rather than the investment in effectiveness and creativity that really drives growth,” she said.

“We have the evidence of what advertising can do, done properly, to transform business performance and, in turn, the economy. A more stable environment can be the platform for advertisers to invest with greater confidence.”

She “truly hoped” that a move away from short-termism was on the horizon — a sentiment that also applied to the “revolving door” of the culture secretary post.

Clay added: “I hope we see a culture secretary who understands and values the creative industries and one who will maintain, if not quicken, the momentum that has been gained in bringing better oversight to the world of social media.”

Investing in talent

Another policy priority from the IPA is “better investment in education” in creative subjects.

Woodford highlighted the need to reform education and skills policies to ensure the ad industry had the best creative and digital talent for “continued success and to grow jobs and investment”.

Labour had said it would “urgently commission” a full expert-led review in order to deliver a curriculum that is “rich and broad, inclusive and innovative”. It would “consult widely across the creative sector” to ensure it draws on all the relevant expertise.

The IPA also called for approaches to “level the playing field” so that the UK can attract and retain the best global talent and “remain a dominant, international advertising force”.

In addition, creating a flexible growth and skills levy to replace the existing Apprenticeship Levy was another request from the IPA so that agencies have “greater flexibility”.

A self- and co-regulatory system

Bainsfair said the IPA would continue to “make the case for the highly successful and internationally renowned self- and co-regulatory system” that is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Smith described this system as “proven to be a world-leading success story”.

Bainsfair continued: “If the UK’s advertising industry is to continue to thrive, it needs to be allowed to innovate without unnecessary legislative intervention.”

Smith added: “We ask the government to continue to support this. As a member of the Online Advertising Taskforce, we are committed to working with government on the Online Advertising Programme as it develops proposals for the future.”

Data protection and HFSS legislation

The earlier-than-expected general election led several bills related to advertising to be dropped in the wash-up period.

Reeves was hopeful that any bills placed on hold “will now progress quickly”, in particular the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which would provide “important certainty and clarity for publishers” around regulatory interpretations of the law when it comes to privacy and general consent.

This view was shared by Chris Combemale, CEO of the Data & Marketing Association, who plans to continue active lobbying for the bill to be implemented in order to “modernise the UK’s data protection framework”.

Combemale called on the new government to see an “opportunity to increase the role of data protection for the facilitation of UK growth” and urged all political parties to recognise the necessity of data reforms.

At the same time, Smith urged Labour to pass the secondary legislation required to finish the introduction of new food and drink advertising regulations as “an easy, pro-business and pro-growth” step.

He explained: “Advertisers are desperate for clarity and certainty on what products, categories and media are in or out of scope of the new regulations. Many brands are already having to plan ad campaigns without the finalised rules and guidance they need.”

Regulation of digital advertising and AI

Christie Dennehy-Neil, head of policy and regulatory affairs at IAB UK, implored Labour “not to automatically pick up” where the Conservatives left off when it comes to policy decisions about further regulation of digital advertising.

Alongside IAB members, Labour needs to “take time” and work together to “evolve the regulatory framework in an evidence-based and proportionate way”.

Dennehy-Neil added: “It’s in everyone’s interests to strike the right balance between managing the risk of consumer harm and supporting the UK’s digital advertising industry — and the wider digital economy that it drives — to thrive.”

Finally, while Labour supports “the safe development of the AI sector” in the UK, Bainsfair suggested “a flexible, cautious approach to regulation is sensible”, especially considering the fast pace of AI development alongside the need to allow for innovation and creativity.

On this front, the IPA advocated for international co-operation “where possible” to ensure consistency.

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