Helen James of CPB London: take a staycation – it’ll be good for your career

By Helen James, managing director of Crispin Porter Bogusky, London

As many of us saw, research released earlier this month claims that people working in the UK ad industry are unable to empathize with the ‘modern mainstream’ (defined as the middle 50% in terms of household income – £20k/£55k – representing over 50% of brand buyers across 3,500 brands). This is of course deeply worrying, given that our job as advertisers is to connect everyday people with everyday brands, helping our clients to build brands that Brits love.

The sad reality is that many of us are dangerously out of touch with our target audiences. Adland is made up mainly of a relatively niche group of what former Prospect magazine editor David Goodhart terms ‘Anywheres’. Defined in large part by their increased mobility (thanks to family holidays abroad as well as overseas work shoots), the Anywheres are regularly exposed to more cultures and a wider variety of life experiences. As a result, they also tend to possess heightened levels of confidence – and restlessness – that arguably sets them squarely apart from the average Brit.

Yes, the Anywheres of Adland are also defined by a number of other traits that can drive something of a wedge between them and the average British consumer (CBD infused lemonade, anyone?), but as Goodhart’s moniker suggests, it’s our nomadic outlook that really distinguishes us from mainstream Britain: 60% people born in the UK still live within 20 miles of where they lived when they were 14. That is a sobering fact. That 60% tend to value stability, continuity, respect for social norms and place a higher value on their local identity. These are what Goodhart calls the ‘Somewheres’, a more rooted group that makes up a far more substantial proportion of modern mainstream Britain than the Anywheres.

As the majority of Adland’s inhabitants pack away their kids’ school uniforms this week and jet off abroad on their annual summer holidays, we should ask ourselves – will my experiences in this foreign country help me do my job (understand my target audience) better, or not. The sad-but-true answer is that it probably won’t: while the top 10% of UK households by disposable income spent close to 6% of that cash on foreign holidays in 2018, the middle band of households spent half that, picking UK staycations over overseas jaunts more often. (In fact, over 50 million domestic trips are taken each year in the UK – that’s a lot of Mr Whippy and fairground rides.)

So, if uncertainty around Brexit (and the crushing exchange rate) means you already nixed any European holiday plans for this summer, you deserve to feel smug. No phrasebooks needed. No queues at the airport or Delhi-belly worries. No driving on the right or jetlag. Simple. But also, and importantly, you’re going to be a Somewhere instead of an Anywhere for a couple of weeks. Inadvertently it might be, but you have effectively just invested in your career.

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