Stephen Maher: How the Olympic spirit can help get us out of recession

By Stephen Maher, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 17 August 2012 12:00AM

Against a backdrop of Damien Hirst's aluminium benches and a purpose-built glass pavilion leading out to impossibly manicured gardens, the recent UKTI Global Business Summit on creative services at Lancaster House could not have been held at a more British venue.

Stephen Maher: the chief executive at MBA

Stephen Maher: the chief executive at MBA

Delegates invited by No 10 from across the globe heard from the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, Sir Martin Sorrell, Burberry's Christopher Bailey, Apple's Sir Jonathan Ive and Lord Rogers - all expertly marshalled by the ex-BMP ad woman Fiona Bruce.

Each speaker showcased their contribution to "Great" British creativity and, thanks to the IPA, the ad industry was brilliantly represented at this feast of British creativity. The world's business leaders heard from the likes of Nicola Mendelsohn and Johnny Hornby about creativity and digital technology. They also heard how London was the world's perfect creative hub to build brands from Moray MacLennan. And from Sir John Hegarty and Johnnie Walker, JWT's Toby Hoare and HSBC, and yours truly with our Brazilian private jet client Embraer.

But just when we thought the Government had made its compelling case for the UK creative industries - which, at 8 per cent of UK GDP, is as large as the financial services sector and of which advertising is one of its largest sectors - the bar was raised.

We found ourselves at the Royal Academy evening reception desperately trying to catch a glimpse of the Duchess of Cambridge talking to Stella McCartney or listen to David Cameron tell the global movers and shakers in the room that "if you are involved in the creative industries, now is the time to invest in Britain".

I found two things most striking.

First, how the last vestiges of British understatement had been publicly jettisoned in the interests of commercial survival. This was UK plc saying "listen, we are really very good at this and we are not pulling back in telling you so.

Yes, of course others are also very good, but Britain is truly 'great'."

Second, it is noticeable how strong we are when we work collectively to make the industry case for commercial creativity directly to our "customers", as this business summit allowed us all to do. We have so many world-beating case studies detailing how billions of pounds of value have been created through our creativity. We have so many impressive industry leaders and we have the perfect global hub in London and the UK. We do not need to wait for another Olympics - we should encourage the British government in its new-found sense of public pride to do this more often because we know that British creativity sells on a global scale. Or as Sorrell said on the day: "It is ideas that will get us out of this recession."

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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