George Osborne warns the ad industry: ‘Make your voice heard over Brexit or your interests will be ignored’

Former Chancellor and now Evening Standard editor says ad industry must speak out about issues over talent, digital standards and data or risk its interests falling down the political agenda.


George Osborne has warned the ad industry that it must not be afraid to make its voice heard in Government during the Brexit negotiations or risk losing out as the issues of more vocal industries rise to the top of the agenda.

Speaking at an Ad Association event last night (11 July), the former Chancellor who is now editor of the Evening Standard, said there is “no shame” in speaking out because other industries such as finance, farming and car manufacturing will be “at the table making sure their concerns are properly understood and taken into consideration”.

“Advertising is an incredibly important industry and you shouldn’t be shy about making your voice heard,” he said. “There is no shame in that, there is nothing wrong with making sure that alongside other industries in our country like finance, agriculture or car manufacturing, or other parts of the creative sector like TV and film production, the ad industry makes its voice heard.

“[Advertising] is a very big and important industry and the association and its members have a job to do to make sure that its needs and interests are understood.”

The Ad Association has done some big research in recent years into the impact the industry has on the UK economy. This includes that for every £1 spent on advertising, £6 is generated for the economy and that it generates £4bn in exports annually.

However, Osborne believes that as the Government negotiates Brexit, raising the profile and concerns of the ad industry is more important than ever.

In particular, he says issues around attracting talent from across Europe, how the immigration system will work and which sectors get work visas if they are introduced need to be broached, as do concerns around digital standards and the handling of data.

“I’m afraid it is going to require [the ad industry] to make its voice loud because I suspect as the Government is buffeted from one message to another it will be the industries that are really able to articulate their concerns that will find their concerns at the top of the agenda,” he added.

The power of print

Osborne, unsurprisingly given his current role, also warned advertising “not to neglect” newspapers’ “traditional product”, highlighting that close to 1 million people read the Evening Standard. He admits the newspaper industry has gone through a “period of disruption” but said he thinks there is a “massive opportunity” for news brand that can provide trusted information.

He said he sees newspapers and brands as being “basically in the same business of convincing the public that the things we tell them are things they can believe, that the brands we represent, the things we promise are true and can be trusted”. And that they need each other if they are to weather Brexit, which he said he still thinks is a “mistake”

“There is a big space for accurate facts, informed analysis and, yes, experts. There is a big market for that and we are seeing in the US a bit of a revival of the more traditional industry, the newspapers.

“Let’s work together to make sure the ad industry and our industries are heard loud and clear at this very challenging time.”

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