The AA’s Stephen Woodford: what 2022 might bring for advertising – pandemic permitting

Our AA/WARC adspend forecast predicts continued strong growth in the advertising market, after a record year in 2021, with the fastest rebound of any major international market continuing into 2022.

Like the last couple of years, these predictions have the obligatory pandemic caveats around them, but hopefully the UK’s high levels of vaccination and the ramping up of boosters will keep infections at bay and the economy as open as possible.

Here at the AA we spend a lot of time on regulatory issues and there are difficult and complex policy decisions ahead around internet and online safety regulation. Predicting how these turn out is anyone’s guess, but as a hope rather than a prediction, living up to the promise to make the UK the best and safest place to interact and conduct business online is the prize to be won (or lost) by the policy choices made.

I can safely predict that responding to these and working with our members and Government on achieving the outcomes that balance societal and business interests will be a major part of our work next year.

Another safe prediction is that the urgency we have seen in 2021 to tackle the long-term issues around sustainability will continue and accelerate.

In 2021 our Ad Net Zero programme grew from a standing start to now nearly 100 companies committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. In 2022 we will see the actions ramp up, for instance with the widespread adoption and usage of the AdGreen production calculator, which allows the measurement and reduction of the carbon footprint of shoot and recording-based productions.

The other actions in the plan are being adopted and integrated by all these businesses and in 2022 we will host our second Ad Net Zero global summit, to coincide with COP27. In 2021 we staged the first of these, with over 2000 people from 30 countries coming together online and we want to build the international community supporting this vital programme in 2022.

The other issue we’ve heard from the leadership across the industry where we want to see rapid improvement is inclusion. Our All In survey was the largest research exercise on the workforce in advertising ever conducted, with over 16,000 people responding.

We now have deep knowledge and insight into the composition and experience of all the different demographic cohorts in our industry and we’ve announced the first actions to address the challenge of improving inclusion in advertising and making our industry a place where everyone is welcome and can thrive, whatever your background.

Finally, my prediction is that the welcome return of Cannes Lions in person will be the most sustainable Cannes yet and the UK delegation I hope will be driving this agenda, as well as delivering a strong performance in winning the Lions themselves. 2021 was a much better year than 2020 and my final hope is that 2022 is better still.

Stephen Woodford is CEO of the UK Advertising Association.

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