Brexit Worries over Talent Loss and Data Regulation for ISBA and P&G

Britain’s exit from the European Union could leave UK advertisers without the talent necessary to create relevant and effective advertising, and could mean the UK ad industry becomes bound by data regulations it has no influence in, warn the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and P&G. Speaking to the UK Parliament’s Communications Committee, the ISBA’s director general Phil Smith and P&G’s associate director for media Katharine Newby Grant said that while they see the UK as a global hub of advertising, it faces several challenges following Brexit. They say the Government needs to do its best to ensure the UK doesn’t completely lose influence on EU advertising regulations.

Newby Grant and Smith, giving evidence for the Communications Committee’s inquiry into the UK’s advertising industry, were asked to give their views on the UK government’s statement that it wants to “seize the opportunity created by our departure from the EU to turn outwards as global Britain, and to make UK advertising visible to global markets”. Both agreed that the UK holds an important position within the advertising landscape, with Newby Grant saying that P&G sees the UK as “a centre for creative excellence which sits alongside New York, and has some of the best creative talents in the world”.

The UK’s status could be under threat though, as both showed concerns about whether Britain would continue to attract the right talent after its departure from the EU. Smith in particular emphasised the importance of being able to pull in the best tech talent, given its scarcity. “One of the big challenges as we look forward to a world beyond Brexit is to make sure we have access to the right talent to be able to fuel those industries, in terms of skill shortages that we know are around globally,” said Smith. “We need to be able to get the very best tech people into the technology businesses that power the industry.”

Smith also said that he worries how a loss of influence in EU regulations could hurt the UK’s ad industry, specifically in terms of data regulations. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be applied to the UK as it comes into force next year, and will continue to apply post-Brexit since the UK has decided to enshrine GDPR principles in its own law with Data Protection Bill. Smith welcomed this decision, but said that the UK may be forced to comply with future EU data regulation, such as e-Privacy, despite having no influence. “We already see a loss on influence in the steering of the e-privacy directive even though we chair some parts of that constituency” he said. He warned that e-privacy may end up being more restrictive than the UK would like, but that the UK may need to apply its principles anyway so it can continue exchanging data with the EU as the ad industry requires.

Neither Smith nor Newby Grant explicitly disagreed with the UK government’s suggestion that Brexit could give the UK’s ad industry new opportunities, but they didn’t give any examples of how it might do so, even when asked directly. Having only listed concerns, both expressed how the UK ad industry already has global reach in many instances, suggesting that there is little to be gained in terms of access to new markets from Britain pulling out of the EU.

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