UK adland confronts Brexit and trust crisis

Brexit was the headline topic of the Advertising Association’s Lead 2018 conference – the trade body has taken on the tricky task of campaigning for a good deal on behalf of the industry – but the outstanding issue of the day was trust.

Liam Fox, international trade secretary, was booked in June to deliver the political keynote, but he went to a Davos banquet instead. So Labour MP Chuka Ummuna stepped up with an intensely political anti-Brexit talk focusing on the untrustworthiness of PM Theresa May.

Then the de facto leader of adland and AA chairman adam&eveDDB’s James Murphy, hosted a panel on the impact of Brexit at which Channel 4’s new CEO Alex Mahon said she saw her main role as providing a vehicle for diverse viewpoints. “We don’t want to contribute to the ongoing sense of disenfranchisement,” she added.

Lindsay Pattison, WPP’s chief transformation officer, focused on talent and Brexit but soon veered into trust territory when she went uncharacteristically off-message and declared, “We have a spectrum of newspapers and it’s great to have diversity of opinion but they are boring us and creating anxiety… we need a trusted media provocateur to help stimulate debate.”

Murphy shared some insight into how Brexit is impacting his agency where four staff have left in the last six months because of uncertainty. He also hinted at an extension of A&E’s influence on DDB Europe, thanks to a Brexit-bruised client who wants to do more work out of his home country and has asked A&E to create a structure to make that happen.

Nick Manning, one of the founders of Manning Gottlieb OMD and recently of Ebiquity, ignited the debate on trust when claimed that the industry had alienated the public by being “cavalier in the pursuit of personalization.” Online ad fraud, he said, “is drug money without the guns.”

Manning finished by insisting, “Responsible marketing is the only kind that makes sense these days,” and urged everyone to “Get real. It’s tempting to get carried away by augmented reality and virtual reality in the never ending game of who’s coolest..but agencies need to get outside of the M25. Today’s reality is pretty important.”

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