The advertising industry is one of our creative giants.
In 2019 it contributed £17bn to our economy, employing more than 190,000 people across the country. It is a vital cornerstone of our wider, world-leading creative culture.
That’s the economic bottom line.
But then there’s the artistry of the sector – which I think is something too many people tend to overlook.
Just like the next James Bond film or Sally Rooney novel, things like the John Lewis Christmas ads are now cultural events in their own right.
Finally, there is the raw power of the sector in terms of the impact it has on every part of our lives.
A well-crafted ad or campaign can influence the way we look, how we vote, and the way we behave during a global pandemic. Never have people been more interested in the power of messaging to change people’s behaviour – and never has that task been more urgent – than in the past year.
A few simple phrases – “Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives” – may have been the difference that protected thousands of people from coronavirus.
That’s why I’m immensely grateful for the way the industry has teamed up with us to promote our public health messaging during coronavirus, and for all the advertising space it has shared, even as the sector itself comes under incredible strain from Covid.
I know the sector has faced many challenges recently, and I want to take this opportunity to say I will continue to make sure you have a strong and clear voice in government.
Opportunities lie ahead
I also want to reassure the industry that there is a glimmer of real opportunity ahead.
In the coming months, if the vaccine rollout maintains its current pace, the government will be able to look at reopening the economy. With any luck, Euro 2020 and other events will finally make it onto our screens – complete with the usual carnival of colourful ads from world-famous brands like Adidas and Nike.
And we will be getting ready to launch a huge tourism campaign, to broadcast to the rest of the world that Britain is back open for business. This crescendo will build all the way to the showstopper events of 2022 – the Platinum Jubilee, the Commonwealth Games, Festival UK 2022 – all of which represent huge opportunities for the industry.
As we regroup and begin to recover, advertising will be there every step of the way – heralding the return of all the things that make life worth living.
And advertising will be absolutely pivotal in rebuilding our economy and bringing it back to full strength. A strong market economy needs advertisers, and your immense creativity, to help consumers make choices.
Rest assured, the government will be here to support you and make sure you can thrive in the coming months and years.
It’s one of the reasons we felt it was so important to secure work permit exemptions for advertising and other industries in our deal with the EU – and why we extended essential support packages like the furlough scheme through to the end of April. And it’s why we’re working closely with the sector to make sure it’s fit for the digital age.
As we exit this pandemic, we have the chance to build back better and leave a stronger, more equitable, more resilient advertising sector in its wake. I look forward to building it with you.
Oliver Dowden is secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport