Jeremy Lee: Adland is holding back entrepreneurs and the economy

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 26 April 2012 08:00AM

It's some consolation at least that despite the other chaos that seems to be reigning in Whitehall, the advertising industry, under the auspices of both the Advertising Association and the IPA, has apparently had some success in convincing government of its contribution to the sickly UK economy.

Jeremy Lee: Adland is holding back entrepreneurs and the economy

The fact that, according to recent figures, advertising is the second-highest employer of the creative industries and worth around £6 billion in exports is evidence that further regulatory intervention is largely unwelcome. It is a sector where the UK punches above its weight and one in which it has continually innovated, sometimes despite, rather than because of, government intervention, so gentle pats on the back are appropriate.

But the industry can also play a crucial role in helping get the economy up off its knees. After all, the Government sees economic growth being stimulated by the encouragement of small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs - an area where advertising has traditionally excelled.

Sadly, however, it now takes real guts to launch a start-up, given that securing funding is more difficult than ever before and, to cautious investors, the market can appear already well-served.

All credit to those who have done so, the most recent being Hometown, launched by the founders of Saint. While the start-up might sound a little like a frozen-pizza brand, they have shown courage in founding a business at a time when most people are cautious about even the most mundane purchase, frozen pizzas notwithstanding. We should all, therefore, wish its talented management team the best fortune.

Aside from the market and economic conditions that have resulted in risk-taking becoming, er, much more risky, any entrepreneur who wishes to start their own business can sometimes find their ambitions thwarted by their former employers. Anecdotally, at least, the nature of the ludicrously restrictive employment contracts that some holding companies have put in place are preventing new businesses doing just that - making business. While it's understandable that holding companies want to protect their client base, it seems bizarre that, on the one hand, they are lobbying to show how important the industry is to the economy but, at the same time, preventing it from growing with punitively restrictive measures put into employees' terms and conditions.

And it's not just start-ups that are affected. Even those people who wish to simply move job have found themselves unable to work (or get paid) until the notice period is up.

It's time someone in the industry took a stand. Not only because such restrictive contracts thwart the entrepreneurialism that is so desperately needed to kick-start the economy, but also because they are in danger of making what should be a enjoyable job into one of bonded labour.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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