Camelot CEO Andy Duncan: Winners keep spending in times of change

“Keep investing” is the most important message for businesses in the Brexit world, argues the Camelot CEO, who believes maintaining confidence in creativity is also crucial.

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In a world rocked by Brexit and the election of President Trump in the US, brands and agencies in the UK and beyond can survive by being confident and continuing to invest in creativity, says Camelot CEO and Advertising Association president, Andy Duncan.

You can’t ignore Trump and what’s happening in the States, or the anti-globalisation feeling in some countries.

Clearly one of the issues is how this will play out for the UK in the context of Brexit. Also we have to think about how we stay a country that’s open for business that has very strong ties with the rest of the world, without losing a good trading relationship with the EU.

If you’re a London agency or a global agency based out of London, my sense is there will be swings and roundabouts.

But, there will be opportunities. The important thing is going to be, can we keep highly skilled labour in UK? It’s particularly significant for the ad industry in terms of the importance of having a highly skilled labour market and maintaining an international perspective, which is actually part of what clients need from agencies.

Other questions are harder to answer on what impact Brexit will have over time on the wider economy and how much money people have got to spend.

So far it’s not had too bad an impact, although we’re certainly seeing some evidence that consumers are being more cautious with their spending, especially on discretionary purchases and impulse spends.

If we end up with a stronger economy that helps everybody. If at the end of the day we have a real bump in the road, the economy softens and confidence drops that could have a very profound impact.

At the moment there is a little softness in the ad market, but people are still spending which is good and as leaders it’s very important to keep confidence levels up. In times of change it’s important to keep investing. That’s probably one of the most important messages to give businesses. It’s a great time to invest and those that keep spending in times of change will probably be the winner at the end of it.

During times of change and uncertainty finance departments, finance directors and CEOs will worry about the analytical, budget and efficiency side.

But it’s not just about having the confidence to keep spending through times of change, it’s also having the confidence to keep being creative and brave enough to try out new ideas. It comes back to the idea of opportunity and threat. If you’re going to be more on the opportunity side of the equation, then actually it’s not about battening down the hatches, but embracing change in as positive a way as possible.

It’s fair to say it’s a sort of moment of time that gets people to reappraise and reconsider. Clearly there’s going to be extra focus and attention in boardrooms across the country on effectiveness of spend, including marketing. Therefore I think the best clients and companies will be getting ahead of the game and the best agencies will be anticipating that and trying to demonstrate fresh ideas.

At its heart it’s also about knowing how to remain really relevant to the public and consumers. Do a good job on that and ultimately that will count for a lot.

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