Lead 2015, the bottom line

Cilla Snowball, the chairman of the Advertising Association and the group chairman and chief executive of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, reflects on the five main themes coming out of last week's AA Lead conference.

Cilla Snowball: chairman of the Advertising Association and group chairman and chief executive of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Cilla Snowball: chairman of the Advertising Association and group chairman and chief executive of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Last Thursday was my 4th Lead summit for the Advertising Association. The first was as an agency speaker and the last three as chairman of the Advertising Association.

Over those four years we have made significant progress as an industry in showing collaboration, cohesion and conviction, backed by a single, powerful narrative and a growing, robust evidence base, which has proved our economic, social and cultural contribution has done a great job of "advertising advertising".

Thanks to three excellent reports from Deloitte, we can now quantify advertising’s value to the UK economy (an £18 billion annual spend delivering a £100 billion contribution to GDP), to employment (550,000+ jobs created) and to culture (flowing further billions into supporting culture, media and sport).

We’ve made significant progress and shown that we are an industry on the front foot, confident of our value.

We designed last week’s Lead 2015 summit around both value and values and examined whether it is time for a "new deal" for advertising, exploring the value exchange between advertising’s agencies, media and brands and the wider, ever-changing world we operate in.

Five areas of focus and action emerged during the summit speeches, debates and discussions:

Digital commerce is fuelled by and built around advertising. And that puts us in the frontline, both to capitalise on the immense communication and creative opportunities it affords as well as to manage the debate on data and transparency, putting the consumer front and centre of everything we do, enabling innovation, dialogue and choice.

Commercial ethics are under constant scrutiny. The world at large is ever more alert to the impact of business on society, particularly on vulnerable consumers. That means, inevitably, advertising comes under the spotlight too and we have a duty of care to develop and unite behind sound policies and principles that are profitable, proportionate, evidence-based and responsible. We cannot ignore the responsibility agenda. The only way is ethics.

Self regulation is a privilege and our chosen and valued model for upholding industry outputs and standards that are legal, decent, honest and truthful. In addition we need and want to build trust in advertising, among all constituencies, consumer and political. While our creative activities are world class, trust and engagement scores in our industry are low and claimed indifference towards our industry is rising among the general public.

Our creativity and influence extends way beyond adland into the powerful, vibrant and growing creative industry sector. We are part of a wider and bigger picture. We must train hard, integrate, orchestrate and collaborate.

The ethnicity and diversity of our talent base needs urgent acceleration and attention.  Advertising is too white and too male.

The assembled 300+ industry leaders at the Lead summit emphatically backed a mandate for action and change. The tripartite of clients, media and agency leaders were repeatedly urged to collaborate and to take responsible action in all five areas. None of them are easy but all of them are necessary.

The move for change backs the decisions already made by the AA Council to move forwards, mindful of our wider responsibilities, crossing the line beyond adland and 2015 will focus on how we go about this.

And the need to take action is not because we have a General Election in 90 or so days. It’s because the heart of our AA remit is to promote and protect the rights and responsibilities of advertising. And every single one of us has a stake in that.

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