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UK advertising – the business of creativity

Aisling Conlon, Director of International Trade, Advertising Association

Aisling Conlon, Director of International Trade, Advertising Association | Advertising Association

4 min read Partner content

Aisling Conlon, Director of International Trade at the Advertising Association, tells PoliticsHome about the vital role the advertising sector plays in contributing to the nation's economic prosperity and how she believes that with enhanced support, the impact of UK advertising services can resonate even more powerfully worldwide.

The advertising industry is no longer just about making ads in the ever-evolving commercial media channels; it includes events, ad-funded programs, sports sponsorship, influencer marketing, and more, globally valued at $250 billion by Goldman Sachs.  The UK, ranking as the world’s third-largest advertising market at £35 billion in 2022, also generated a 15.5% year-on-year increase in UK Advertising exports, reaching £15.6 billion in the same year. These results demonstrate the power of UK Advertising to deliver for the UK economy.  An estimated 560,000 jobs are supported by the wider advertising industry across the UK, with 54% of the workforce located outside of London.

The UK’s standing as a global hub is reflected in a much more internationally diverse workforce than in other European locations, like Paris and Amsterdam. London and New York are the world’s leading cities in terms of employment in advertising and its associated industries, with around 1 in 18 jobs in each city being connected with the sector. London differs markedly in the combination of domestic and international talent in its workforce, whereas New York draws much more from domestic talent. This all helps to solidify the UK’s standing as a global hub and an export powerhouse for advertising, and positions it as a crucial part of the drive to reach the government's £1 trillion export target by 2030.

Over the past six years, the industry's exports have doubled from £7.1 billion to £15.6 billion in 2022, helped by the growing engagement of UK advertising and market research companies in international activities.  In 2020, our industry came together and launched the UK Advertising Exports Group (UKAEG), backed by support from the Advertising Association, APA, BPMA, IPA, and the Department for Business & Trade. At the heart of our mission is the commitment to ensure the UK remains the global hub for advertising excellence, effectiveness, and innovation, by driving growth and expanding our global reach.

UKAEG runs trade missions that provide UK advertising companies with opportunities to explore and enter new international markets.  Targeting countries or regions with significant growth potential has allowed the UK to showcase its expertise on the global advertising industry’s biggest stages. UKAEG facilitated collaborative opportunities between UK advertising companies and international stakeholders. Networking sessions, roundtable discussions, and collaborative projects allowed for the exchange of ideas, fostering partnerships that would contribute to the growth of the global advertising industry.

In a year marked by many achievements, UKAEG made a substantial impact at SXSW 2023 at UK House, with 30 official talks, 93 speakers and a roundtable with US stakeholders. Additionally, at Cannes Lions, the world’s largest festival of creativity, UKAEG orchestrated a triumphant initiative, hosting 24 events, including five roundtables with key markets including the US, MENA, India and Japan. Our GREAT global dinner plus a roundtable with the advertising industry’s leading title, Campaign, connected UKAEG members with global guests.

Meanwhile, UKAEG's strategic presence at Advertising Week New York, resulted in two UK companies requiring offices in the United States, highlighting the impact of this global outreach. Finally, UKAEG hosted the inaugural UK & China Advertising Summit in London to facilitate collaboration and foster strategic partnerships between the Shanghai International Advertising Festival and UKAEG members, laying the ground for mutual success in China for 2024.

Over 100 companies have joined UKAEG at global events in 2023. By actively participating in trade missions, UKAEG and its member companies all reinforce the UK's leadership position in the global advertising industry. The missions showcased the country's commitment to fostering international collaborations and driving innovation within the advertising sector.

Interestingly, just under a third of UK advertising and marketing-related service companies are currently engaged in exporting, meaning there is significant potential for growth within our sector. UKAEG remains steadfast in its commitment to driving the UK advertising industry to greater heights.  As we navigate a landscape where global competition intensifies, now is not the time for complacency or silence; instead, it is a moment that demands strategic action and bolstered support from Government, backing the vital role our sector plays in contributing to the nation's economic prosperity. I believe that with enhanced support, the impact of UK advertising services can resonate even more powerfully worldwide.

If you would like to find out more about UK Advertising – the global powerhouse or how you can support UK Advertising contact – or visit

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