Now is the time for our industry to reset

Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association on the importance of resetting UK advertising for the better.

Stephen Woodford, Advertising Association



2021 has started in the toughest possible way, with a spiralling pandemic and another lockdown, but this time round feels different. The vaccine rollout is accelerating and there’s an end point in sight. By late February, we will hopefully see the easing of restrictions and the gradual return to a more normal way of life. Fingers crossed, that will bring a big economic bounce back, with the release of business investment and household savings held up by COVID-19 and the lack of clarity over a Brexit trade deal.

At the same time, we are living through a period where social inequalities have been magnified, trust in all institutions is being continually eroded and a desire is mounting to see real change in the ways our economy, society and business function, not just in the UK but around the world. All the signs point towards the need for significant improvements in the way we do things.

Advertising is a proven driver of the economy. We know through the work of Credos, the UK advertising think tank, that every pound spent generates six pounds of GDP. It is a significant driver of prosperity for all, by helping businesses innovate and grow. The pandemic has shown it is also a vital and effective tool in the public health armoury, with ‘Hands, Face, Space’ now replaced with the Lockdown one classic ‘Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives’.

But more broadly, it is also a key contributor to the way UK society views and represents itself. Credos research on what drives public trust and favourability also shows that advertising’s social contribution is the second-most important positive factor. So, it’s clearer than ever to me that advertising has a vital role in helping to build a society and economy that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Take every opportunity you can that this year presents to help deliver a reset we can all be proud of.

Stephen Woodford

Resetting UK advertising for the better

Now is a great time to ask where do we go from here? How do we reset UK advertising for the better? And, by doing so, how do we secure a better future for not just our colleagues and our businesses, but for the wider society in which we operate and contribute so much to?

Making the right changes now is the most positive thing we can do as an industry in the UK’s collective efforts to defeat the pandemic. When I look at the changes I know our members want to see, they are crystal clear. At a societal level, there is a desire for real action around the issues of inclusion and the climate emergency and the people working in our industry are incredibly committed to addressing these challenges. Within our industry, there is that same determination to address the ways we are delivering the experience of advertising to people and, by doing so, rebuild the public’s trust in our work.

The opportunity to use this moment for a reset for our industry inspired us to create a unique industry conference, RESET 2021. The Advertising Association has long held our LEAD summit around this time, but this year, at such a pivotal point for the whole industry, we have joined forces with two of our biggest members, ISBA and the IPA, to create a moment for the whole advertising industry to consider how we make meaningful change.

Leaders from brands, agencies, media owners and tech platforms will look at how we can support the UK’s social and economic recovery, how we deal with the repercussions of COVID-19 and how we can deliver on our mission to rebuild public trust in advertising. Suffice to say, we will be hearing from an absolutely stellar cast of political and business figures. Our goal with RESET 2021 is to really galvanise a collective push to tackle those issues which are of such importance to us all.

We will achieve the most effective and meaningful reset through the commitment and participation of everyone who works in our industry. I hope you can join us at RESET 2021 but even more importantly that you take every opportunity you can that this year presents to help deliver a reset we can all be proud of.

Visit the Advertising Association’s website to find out more about RESET 2021

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