UK adland faces up to challenging future after shock decision to quit EU

Should be an interesting morning here in the sunny environs of Cannes as a fair chunk of the global advertising, marketing, media and tech industry tries to come to terms with Britain’s surprise (some business people would say amazing) decision to quit the European Union.
52 per cent voting to leave on a reasonably high turnout of 72 per cent isn’t exactly emphatic but it hardly amounts to calls for a recount. The demographic breakdown shows quite clearly that the north of England was key: London and most of the prosperous south voted Remain, Scotland did too, Wales was narrowly in favour of Out and northern Ireland In.

In the north was it fear of globalisation, the feeling that the goodies in this brave new commercial world were going exclusively to the fat cats (as they’re depicted, as ever it’s a massive generalisation) in London and the south? People like, er, Leave campaigners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove? Or just another protest vote, like the ones we’re seeing across Europe and in the US and other places?

It’s essentially a failure of modern capitalism to distribute its goodies widely enough to keep everyone happy. Yesterday evening Will Lewis of News UK, Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper operation in the UK, was saying the various papers’ recommendations were left to the editors and it was no surprise that the Sun – with its huge down-market readership – voted out and The Times in. For the Sun to have voted In would have been a betrayal of its readership. The Daily Mail, more surprisingly perhaps, voted Out too. Maybe it was the Sun and the Mail wot won it for the Brexiteers.

Earlier Sanjay Nazerali, CSO of Carat Global and a former senior BBC executive, was telling me he was “terrified” about the looming vote. He felt it would adversely impact not just the media industry but the whole country. Well Sanjay’s a clever guy and he’s certainly right about advertising, marketing and media, at the global level anyway.

The UK has kept its prominent place in this business, second only to the US although that is changing anyway with the growth of China. That will now come under more pressure: will WPP remain a company domiciled in the UK?

One thing we will find out is what France and Germany really think about the UK. Will they make it hard to negotiate a substitute trade deal with Europe or (relatively) easy. French exporters do a vast amount of business with the UK.

As for PM David Cameron, who called this referendum to try to heal a seismic split in the Conservative Party, the golden boy has just made one of the biggest cock-ups in political history.

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