Thought Leadership

Trust, talent and togetherness: learnings from LEAD Scotland

Sharon Lloyd Barnes, Commercial Director at Advertising Association, shares 5 key learnings from LEAD Scotland

Sharon Lloyd Barnes

Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead Advertising Association


Scotland’s advertising community gathered, along with political leaders, to debate issues central to the industry’s success at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh last week. It was an inspiring programme of content exploring how people believe advertising can enhance society and the economy. Without further ado, here are my top five key learnings from our event: 

1. Put trust at the front and centre of your advertising work 

Rebuilding public trust in advertising has long been one of our central priorities, with the Advertising Association’s thinktank, Credos, conducting regular world-leading research into the public’s attitudes towards advertising and truly understanding the positive and negative drivers of trust in our work. Creative quality and enjoyment of ads remain the number one driver of trust, Credos’ latest research revealed. Every time, it is worth going back to basics and asking: how do we prioritise making emotionally engaging adverts that people really enjoy?

On the flip side, bombardment is the number one driver of distrust, a factor that has increased in significance for younger audiences in this latest wave of research. Our focus must be to ask: how can we improve their experience? Initiatives such as ISBA’s Project Origin could help provide solutions.

Our sector has a great power to inform, entertain, and do good things, limited only by the size of our own ideas and the scale of our ambitions.

Sharon Lloyd Barnes, Commercial Director, Advertising Association

Finally, our regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), is already working hard to address some of the negative drivers highlighted in Credos’ research. We know that people who believe there is industry regulation are more likely to trust advertising – those who saw or heard the ASA’s awareness campaign were over 50% more likely to trust most ads than those who didn’t. So, as the third wave of the campaign begins this month, let’s continue to work together to raise awareness of the ASA and what they do. 

2. Creative quality is paramount to our global success 

LEAD Scotland truly brought to life exactly why creative quality is a driver of trust in advertising. Our APA-hosted panel – featuring work from LS Productions, New Commercial Arts, and Filming Scotland – offered amazing examples of Scottish-led ad productions, such as the story of whisky brand The Macallan. Glen Gribbon, now CEO of Bladnoch Distillers, continued the story of how whisky marketing is integral to Scotland’s position on the world stage. Through perfectly-pitched storytelling, advertising can not only help to sell bottles of Scotch, but also reinforce the nation’s position as an attractive destination for tourists from around the world. A key soundbite for me was from LS Production’s founder, Marie Owen, who said “We are often too quiet about the great work we do on the world stage”. As we said in our talent report earlier this year, we should be advertising advertising more – can you help with this? 

3. Your business can offer a social contribution 

Business leaders received a rallying call for providing a greater corporate social contribution. We were privileged to hear former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown address the room with a request to support his Multibank initiative, aimed at tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland. Advertising plays a vital role in informing consumers about all the ways they can give back to the community, and at the same time, businesses can directly help charities by providing surplus goods or services. We also were challenged to think about how advertising should make a valuable social contribution in other ways, for instance through the Leith agency’s #TeamVaccines campaign with the IFPMA to spread positive awareness of vaccines during the pandemic and beyond.  How is the work you’re involved in making a positive social contribution? 

4. How should the Government champion and support the creative industries? 

While the Scottish advertising sector is estimated to support some 42,680 jobs across the economy, the number of people directly employed in advertising in Scotland has been on the decline since 2015. Jobs in Scottish advertising agencies have fallen from 4,500 in 2015 to 3,000 in 2021 and jobs in media have fallen by 300, our research from Biggar Economics showed. With Scotland’s share of employment taking a hit and ad talent drifting south of the border, the role of Government in supporting the Scottish creative industries was hotly debated. For instance, film and TV productions receive tax breaks for their productions, but this is not currently the case for the ad production sector. There is certainly an opportunity for Government and industry to work in partnership and develop new plans to retain jobs in Scotland and help the advertising industry returns to its former strengths. 

5. We are powerful as a collective 

What I love about any Advertising Association gathering is that we hear from the full spectrum of our industry members – from agency leaders to media owners, brands to production companies. We are better together - as a collective voice we can offer more research, food for thought and solutions for the political leaders in the room to take away with them, not to mention grow the opportunities across our community. Our sector has a great power to inform, entertain, and do good things, limited only by the size of our own ideas and the scale of our ambitions.

LEAD Scotland wrapped up with a rallying cry from our CEO, Stephen Woodford, for anyone in the advertising industry to consider their memberships of trade bodies such as the AA or specifically AA Scotland. We will always do our utmost to help champion the industry, support our talented workforce and promote our enviable position as a global creative powerhouse on the world stage. 


If you’re interested in joining our AA Scotland network, please get in touch with me at [email protected].

Guest Author

Sharon Lloyd Barnes

Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead Advertising Association


Sharon Lloyd Barnes is Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead at the Advertising Association. The Advertising Association promotes the role and rights of responsible advertising and its value to people, society, businesses and the economy.

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