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The industry according to LEAD 2015

If after enduring the wobbles of recent economic insecurity the advertising industry was in need of any reaffirmation, then it was given some at today’s Advertising Association LEAD summit. The shot in the arm came from the remarkable contribution that advertising and marketing makes to the creative industries – put simply, without advertising we would be a culturally poorer place.

It was also credited with helping lead the way in the economic revival with the sector growing at 10% per year (four times that of the rest of the economy), and contributing to 5% of the nation’s GDP.

A great British success story then? Well certainly much to be proud of but there are other challenges that the industry faces that the panellists discussed. It was heartening that none of them seemed particularly insurmountable.

After Sir Peter Bazalgette congratulated attendees on their contribution to the economy, advertising was faced with the accusation that it is failing to be representative enough of the nation. And this wasn’t just some liberal hand-wringing – rather a tacit acknowledgement that if it did become more representative and diverse then growth could be even greater still.

He also said that there needed to be a coherent governmental policy to ensure that our sector continues to grow – but when the politicians (Maria Miller for the Conservatives, Chris Bryant for Labour and Tom Brake for the Lib Dems) took to the stage, there didn’t seem to be much they offered that was sector specific. The implications of a withdrawal from Europe were discussed (and Bryant made light of his recent spat with James Blunt by saying that Blunt’s accusation that he was a ‘classist gimp’ were incorrect as he’d ‘never been a sexual toy), but a coordinated policy looked difficult to see.

Nonetheless Bryant won 60% of the attendee’s votes at the end of the debate – a figure his party is unlikely to see at the election – but testament to his lively contribution.

The thorny (and perennial) issue of integration was raised towards the end of the session by Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed. His frustration that agencies were failing to work together better is not a new one – but he left the room with some thoughts ringing in the delegates ears. Advertising needs to become more involved in people’s lives and needs to connect better. It needs to attract the best people and to find new ways of creating brand love

As an industry, I’m sure we’ll find out at next year’s Advertising Association summit how successful advertising has been at meeting these challenges.