Close-Up: Live issue - Will Govt recognise adland's creativity?

By John Tylee, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 22 February 2008 12:00AM

How will the Govt's strategy document to enhance British creativity affect adland?

Last week, Campaign revealed the Government was preparing to recognise the importance of advertising to the UK's economy in a leaked strategy document that promised to increase the importance of Britain's creative industries, and turn it into a "world creative hub".

Contained within the document were a number of plans, including the introduction of an Enterprise Capital Fund to aid start-ups, and the creation of a Davos-style creative Economy Forum to bring creativity to the fore, and, overall, signs were good for adland.

"It all seems fantastically positive," Hamish Pringle, the director-general of the IPA, says of the document, which is being launched by Gordon Brown and the culture secretary, Andy Burnham.

But he also warns that it still remains to be seen how fully adland will be involved in the plans.

The previous attitude of ministers towards the industry has been hostile at worst, and, at best, to view it as a "necessary evil".

Industry leaders believe this is because the business is financially self-sufficient, and not dependent on Government subsidies.

Its relationship with Whitehall is also a different one compared with most industries. Contact has, on the whole, been confined to trying to win support against further advertising restrictions.

As a result, Pringle believes politicians have little idea what part the industry plays in the stimulation of Britain's creativity. Mark Lund, the chairman of the Advertising Association, agrees. He says: "Advertising is a greenhouse for creative talent, much of which migrates into other areas such as films, gaming, music or the arts."

Moray MacLennan, the president of the IPA, is a leading advocate of building closer links with the Government, and highlights a recent Treasury report on the "creative industries" that talked about music, design and fashion, but made no mention of advertising. "And that's despite the £160 billion contribution we make," he says.

There's a belief that adland could benefit if the Government gets behind the creative industries.

As Pringle puts it: "The UK must not only be the place where the newest music gets mixed, but also where business leaders are encouraged to pick a UK agency to lead their next global campaign."

However, not everyone agrees that all of these plans are the correct course of action. For example, James Murphy, who launched Adam & Eve last month, obviously agrees that the Enterprise Capital Fund is a good thing. He says: "For an industry that thrives on start-up culture, it is a good move."

But John Whittingdale, the chairman of the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport select committee, believes adland has done just fine without help. Meanwhile, others have called for the cash to be pumped into training.

Despite the industry's machinations, if the Government wants to make Britain a creative trailblazer, it will need to move fast. Montreal, where 20th Century Fox is shooting three big-budget films this year, is pushing its global creative credentials, and Dubai is aspiring to become an international centre for TV and media services.

As exciting as these changes are, sources still issue a warning for the Government over its plans to tempt more youngsters into the arts, and especially into advertising, and for raising unfair expectations. "The industry has jobs for no more than, say, 700 newcomers a year," a source says. "Where are the rest going to go? To solve that, everybody will have to get a lot more creative."

- Got a view? E-mail us at campaign@haymarket.com

AGENCY HEAD - James Murphy, founder, Adam & Eve

"It's amusing that our industry is grateful to be 'accepted' at the top table of the UK's world-class creative industries when, in fact, we are the UK's world-class creative industry. Marketing communications is pre-eminent in a way that film, music, dance etc. can't hope to be. And our industry doesn't rely on hand-outs.

"The concept of a Creative Economy Forum is fascinating, rather than Davos-style plutocrats and quango types trading ideas, you could get some of the country's most creative and strategic minds applied to society's more challenging problems."

ASSOCIATION HEAD - Mark Lund, chairman, Advertising Association; group chief executive, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners

"There is a sense in the industry that the Government recognises the threats imposed on advertising more than its usefulness.

"So, this is a forward-looking attitude from the DCMS that should be welcomed. It will provide the platform for the Government and adland to engage in a long-term dialogue.

"It is imperative the UK recognises that its strength is in ideas, and the management of those ideas. This document should be seen as an acknowledgement of this."

CREATIVE CHIEF - Malcolm Poynton, executive creative director, Ogilvy Group UK

"I would question if a government really drives creativity, or if it's private enterprise. Look at the Millennium Dome as an example. It was a disaster under this Government, but now it's a great place after investment from O2.

"I also don't think our creative industries are particularly behind anyone, but advertising is struggling to keep up with the US.

"They already have a creative Davos-type forum called Ted, which is always over-subscribed, as well as always being in front with new work, from the Subservient Chicken to the Nike+ campaigns.

"If advertising is to get any backing or funding, it needs to be invested wisely in training so our grads can keep up with the US."

POLITICIAN - John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport select committee

"I am strongly against the new enterprise capital fund because it's not necessary to give money to start-ups. We have a strong creative sector that has built itself up without Government funding.

"The best they can do is minimise the burden of tax and regulation. The industry has faced too much regulation that has already been harmful, not only to the industry, but to other media, which are directly influenced by advertising.

"However, I do welcome the increased protection of intellectual property rights."

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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