Ministers 'don't understand marketing' and should be trained, ad industry warned

Ministers "don't understand marketing" and the government has weakened democracy by scrapping the COI, ad industry leaders have warned.

Karen Blackett: photo credit, Bronac McNeill
Karen Blackett: photo credit, Bronac McNeill

To solve this lack of understanding, MediaCom chairwoman Karen Blackett has urged any creative shop or media agency that has the government as a client should actively train departments on what advertising can achieve.

Speaking at the Advertising Association’s Lead 2017 summit, Blackett said: "We are growing up in an era where in government we have ministers who don’t understand marketing…. There’s a misunderstanding about what our industry can do about being a force for good and how our industry contributes to the growth of the economy."

Blackett argued it should not be left to the AA to lobby or educate government on what the industry can achieve and that "it relies on all of us here to literally step up and get involved."

Fellow panellist Siobhan Kenny, the chief executive of Radiocentre, blamed former prime minister David Cameron for scrapping the 65-year-old COI in 2011 – a move which was welcomed by the AA at the time as a "balanced approach" to ensuring value for money.

Kenny said: "They would not be the first government to think ‘How do we save money? Let’s do away with that thing that just speaks to the public’. But I think a self-confident government would say ‘I don’t care what the Daily Mail says about spin.

"The best way [of communicating with the public] is mass market advertising and communications. It’s not as effective without that and I worry that taking away that cadre of experts has created a democratic deficit."

Kenny, who in the 90s worked for former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair in the Number 10 press office, urged the industry to "demonstrate the power of what we can do" in order to lobby ministers on the industry’s importance, rather than create an ad campaign to "advertise advertising".

Culture secretary Karen Bradley told the summit earlier today that the government wants to hear from the creative industries on what it wants regarding migrant controls as the government negotiates its departure from the European Union.

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