Thought Leadership

5 learnings from LEAD

At the Advertising Association, The IPA and ISBA’s annual summit, LEAD, talent, trust and sustainability were top of the agenda.

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE Creativebrief


‘Permacrisis’ was selected by Collins dictionary as the word of the year for 2022. It is a word which continues to resonate as the cost of living crisis, economic unrest, post-pandemic recovery and the climate crisis are but a few challenges that modern-day marketers face. 

At the Advertising Association, The IPA and ISBA’s annual summit, LEAD, industry experts took to the stage to discuss the current state of the industry, the unique challenges of the current climate and how the industry can help to build a more sustainable future. 

                 1. The Advertising industry is resilient

In keynote speeches from Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; Lucy Powell, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Kate McCann, Political Editor, Talk TV, experts outlined the political landscape and considered the advertising industry’s pivotal role in economic recovery. 

From Donelan there were promises of a greater focus on creating jobs in the sector and creating more opportunities within advertising. Meanwhile, Powell described the industry as a ‘Cinderella sector’ that is often forgotten but sits at the heart of the economy with an ability to drive societal change. 

Their debate focused on the need for a renewed focus on regulation and digital to ensure that the playing field is level for all. Changes that should be led and managed by industry experts but that are indicative of an industry that continues to evolve and sit at the forefront of culture.

It’s in all of our interests to have better more sustainable relationships and call out bad behaviour

Jullian Douglas, International CEO & Vice Chairman, VCCP and President, IPA.

While each session of the conference was started with the caveat of turbulent economic times, the industry has been given reason to be cautiously optimistic as the most recent Bellwether report and AA/WARC stats point to the important role that advertising has to play during a recession. The industry’s ability to communicate with consumers in times of crisis, change consumer behaviours and contribute to more efficient purchasing patterns has seen budgets hold strong. 

             2. In the face of crisis, trust is the most important thing

While consumers are forced to navigate uncertainty, trust is the most important tool for marketers. This idea of trust was first touched upon by McCann who drew upon the example of Liz Truss’ brief time in office. While Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer may be knowledgeable, worthy, parliamentary candidates, their lack of humanity makes them difficult to trust and therefore Truss was afforded an opportunity to power by simply showing (albeit a brief slice of) humanity. As, when it comes to making decisions trust is a big deciding factor and this notion of trust can be extended to all aspects of the advertising industry.

Margaret Jobling, CMO, NatWest and President, ISBA underlined the importance of building trust in marketing in unprecedented times. She explained that ‘trust, transparency, relationships and frequency management’ are key ingredients to maintaining relationships with the public. Where the cost of living crisis has resulted in a 3.3% drop in disposable income equating to approximately £800 per household, bombarding people with advertising is not the way to get people to part with their hard-earned cash, rather building up brand favour creates a cycle of loyalty and trusts. 

Authentic representation, true communications and an industry that allows its people to bring their whole selves to work is essential to creating work that resonates with consumers in difficult times.

The message of trust is also one that extends within the industry and is important in creating good client/agency relationships. This starts with a positive pitch process that abides by the guidelines outlined in the AA/IPA/ISBA’s Pitch Positive Pledge as when client/agency relationships are built on a strong, trusting foundation better more efficient work can be created.

              3. The industry’s most precious resource is its people

People are at the heart of the industry and so investing in talent is an investment in the future. The importance of talent was overwhelmingly present throughout all sessions, starting with a talk from Alessandra Bellini, CCO, Tesco and President of the Advertising Association that outlined the organisation's mission: “The Advertising Association unites the UK’s advertising industry to promote the role and rights of responsible advertising – advertising that is trusted, inclusive and sustainable – and its value to people, society, businesses, and the economy.” Attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining talent is the way the organisation intends to realise its mission. There were calls for a radical re-think when it comes to salary and the second industry-wide All In Census aims to gather data to help craft plans for retention and inclusion.

The Pitch Positive Pledge is also intended to help nurture talent to ensure that the pressures of the industry do not rear their heads during an unhealthy pitch process which can be detrimental to people’s mental health. In a time where each and every pound spent is under immense scrutiny the negative impact that can have on people can drive talent out of the industry. “It’s in all of our interests to have better more sustainable relationships and call out bad behaviour” added Jullian Douglas, International CEO & Vice Chairman, VCCP and President, IPA.

Crucially ensuring that talent feels supported and happy whilst in the workplace is essential for creating great work. By creating a more inclusive industry we can better represent the people we serve and create a workplace where everyone feels included and empowered to create. Dan Clays, CEO at Omnicom Media Group UK took to the stage with Natalie Trye, BRiM Lead | Client Councils & Industry Trades, Meta and Mimi Okorie, Account Director at Hearts & Science to discuss becoming an All In Champion and the importance of making marked steps toward better inclusion. “It has to be business imperative, not an option,” says Okorie. As crucially now is the time to listen and take action to keep the talent in the industry.

              4. In turbulent times the climate crisis must not be forgotten

With talk of permacrisis, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and paralysed by fear, unsure of which crisis to tackle next. Yet, excuses to ignore the climate crisis cannot be afforded any longer. “It’s time to get on with it,” says Seb Munden, Chair, AdNetZero. People are experiencing very real effects of the climate crisis across the world right now in the form of freak weather occurrences and so now is the time for advertisers to play their part in helping close the think do gap.

“For the economy, society and the planet we need to build urgency,” says Munden. Sustainability is not a nice to have, it is essential to the operation of all businesses, after all, there will be no adverts on a dead planet. Agencies and brands are urged to ensure that their own operations are in order first and AdNetZero has shared a five-step action plan to help achieve sustainability goals.

Once internal operations are in order the industry must use its influence to help create new behavioural norms and change attitudes toward sustainability through campaigns. The Sky Zero Footprint Fund is one opportunity afforded to advertisers who want to do more to boost their sustainability credentials and help make change. To find out more about the Sky Zero Footprint Fund please click here.

              5. Creativity is a driver of change

Creativity has the power to inspire and push forward positive change. In crisis and pressured environments, creativity has the power to thrive as it’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention. 

Douglas shared but a few examples of work that has seen creativity change the narrative and that has proved its effectiveness. The VCCP Cadbury Glass Half Full campaign saw the brand take on a new purposeful tone and saw a 22% rise in sales, winning an IPA Effectiveness Award. Adam&Eve’s ITV Veg Power campaign encouraged behavioural change and resulted in 56% of children being more likely to ask for vegetables. It subverted the idea that kids should eat fruit and veg because it's healthy and instead told children veg is evil and that they need to eat it to defeat it, which resonated with the target audience far more through creativity and fun.

For all the crises we might have to face, creativity remains the industry’s greatest strength. With more confidence that the industry can and does make change, drive growth and create great work, nurturing talent will help creativity thrive and in turn, ensure the industry is well placed to weather any storm.