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Business assesses Brexit implications

News, 27 June 2016

LONDON: Businesses and trade organisations have spent the past few days coming to terms with the UK electorate's vote to leave the EU, the widespread initial response being caution and calls to carry on as usual.

That may be easier said than done, however, as stock markets fell around the world on the news, the value of the pound slumped and the prime minister resigned. Economic and political uncertainty are likely to hit consumer confidence and spending in the short term at least. 

"Advertisers will be assessing if this means advantage or problems to come," said Ian Twinn, ISBA director general.

"First, this is a decisive result reflecting a call for change. Secondly it is not clear what change will look like in the short term or the final new relationship with Brussels," he added.

But he was optimistic about the future, arguing that the UK ad industry was a strong global player and that there would be "significant opportunities as the dust settles".

That view was echoed by Paul Bainsfair, director general of The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. "We have always been known and admired for our inventiveness and ideas, he said. "It will now be more important than ever that we continue to demonstrate these valuable traits."

Tim Lefroy, chief executive of the Advertising Association, was also upbeat, saying "UK advertising will adapt and continue to lead the world".

But not everyone was so bullish on the future of the UK advertising industry, as some executives predicted that agencies in European cities would gain more work and that British brands would be hit.


Scott Goodson, founder and CEO of StrawberryFrog, told MediaPost that "London will become a less significant marketing centre" and advised ad professionals starting out on their career to think about moving to Berlin or Paris.

Andrew Dimitriou, President, Y&R Europe, was critical of short-term, isolationist thinking and warned that "the impact on the Brand Great Britain will be immense, and brands that are inherently British will suffer".

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, said he was "very disappointed" and expected a period of considerable uncertainty that would deter activity, but added that "we must deploy that stiff upper lip and make the best of it".

Maurice Lévy, chief executive of Publicis, was "shocked" and "stunned" but was more concerned about the political consequences than the economic ones. "The market is not going to collapse. The Brits are still going to be there, they will continue to live and to spend," he said.

Recent research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing found that two thirds of UK marketers felt unprepared for the impact of a Brexit vote and many will now be trying to establish what the implications are in areas ranging from employment law to data protection.

Sachiko Scheuing, co-chair of FEDMA and European privacy officer at Acxiom, observed that the UK was now in a position to develop a modified version of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which could lead to "a competitive advantage for UK businesses in non-European locations".

Data sourced from Financial Times, Marketing Week, The Drum, Campaign, ISBA; additional content by Warc staff