By many global measures, the UK has one of the top-performing advertising sectors. Recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, UK adspend is expected to total £26.69bn in 2021, according to the Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report(i)
According to official DCMS Economic Estimates, advertising and marketing generated Gross Value Added (GVA) of £17.1bn in 2019, and there were 190,000 people employed in UK advertising and marketing in 2019.(ii)
Reflecting the success of advertising agencies such as adam&eveDDB and AMV BBDO, the UK is the number two country after the US for creative advertising..(iii).
The UK is also home to media agency networks of global scale and sophistication, such as MediaCom and PHD, and internationally acclaimed production companies such as Rattling Stick. The industry draws from a well-educated and diverse pool of talent. More than 60 per cent of the advertising and marketing industry's workforce is educated to at least degree level. The UK is a magnet for international talent.
According to a 2021 Advertising Association report, the UK ad industry exports £11bn of services. It also has the largest trade surplus in advertising services across Europe. In recent years, UK agencies have helped create effective global branding for the likes of HSBC, Samsung, Virgin Airlines, Hilton Hotels, Audi, Emirates, AUDI, Huawei, and Air New Zealand.
The culture of UK advertising assigns a high value to delivering effectiveness through creativity. The country is home to the advertising world's most rigorous effectiveness competition - the IPA Effectiveness Awards - and has a tradition of developing qualifications and training to encourage knowledge about effectiveness to be shared and put into practice.
Competition between UK agencies to win and retain client business has shaped expectations that they must innovate in an ever-changing market. This is clearly evident in digital communications, where the UK has rapidly adopted programmatic buying and has the largest online ad marketplace in Europe. According to the IAB UK, the UK’s digital advertising market rallied in 2020, following the initial impact of the pandemic on spend, and grew by 5% across the course of the year to reach a total of £16.5 billion (iv). The UK is the continent's centre of mobile and app development, and a platform for developments in virtual reality, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. (vi, vii)
The UK timezone - poised between East and West - makes it highly convenient for global organisations looking to co-ordinate efforts across teams. The UK's regulatory and business environment supports good business practices, a clearly-defined legal framework, a flexible labour market and responsible marketing whilst still encouraging creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism.
(I) AA/Warc Expenditure Report, January 2021
(ii) DCMS Statistics
(vi) Google report, cited in FT
(vii) Emarketer report