One thing that unites all businesses – big and small, B2C and B2B – is the need to promote their offerings. Advertising is an essential ingredient in today’s business mix, sitting right at the intersection of where a brand’s message meets the consumer, and creativity meets commerce. It is the indispensable champion of every other sector, and an invaluable catalyst in the development of new ones.
Advertising is also a massive business in and of itself; and an area in which the U.K. has a reputation for excellence. The dynamic industry is a breeding ground for entrepreneurialism and this is reflected in its large number of startups and SMEs. More than a third (35 percent) of the top 20 U.K. ad agencies’ total revenue is generated by overseas business.
As such, the Department of International Trade has picked the UK’s ad industry to represent The Creators (people who have started their own businesses) in a content partnership called #BelieveInTheUK created by Bloomberg Media Studios which is being rolled out across 20 markets this week.
“The U.K. has a lot to offer,” says Johnny Hornby, Chairman and CEO of The&Partnership. “We have always been home to some of the world’s greatest creative advertising. From the pioneering days of CDP in the sixties, and Saatchi & Saatchi in the seventies, through to the complex landscape today. We have an undisputed heritage when it comes to storytelling.”
Since Hornby launched The&Partnership in 2013, the communications group has grown into an international network of 15 agencies that span four continents and employ more than 1,500 people. Hornby attributes the phenomenal growth to the network’s ability to boost its storytelling expertise with world-class digital capabilities, data analytics, influencer marketing and media planning and buying; a cross disciplinary approach behind the name “The&Partnership.”
“The business of building brands is becoming a lot more like a newsroom,” Hornby explains. “You want analytics people, storytelling people and media people all together to see what they can create and produce in real time.”
In 2017, this vibrant and increasingly broad sector continues to grow its reputation for being outward-facing, innovative, and of the highest quality. Hornby credits an ability to collaborate for creating an attractive hotbed that is unlocking new opportunities and nurturing an ecosystem fit for the modern age.
“It’s not a coincidence that technology giants like Google and Facebook are investing in the U.K., or that the next Silicon Valley darlings, like SnapChat, are coming,” he says. “If you really want to understand what these major tech companies are doing outside of Palo Alto, you should come to London. This is where the major international investments are being made, facilities are being built and staff are being trained.”
The momentum for The&Partnership was underlined at the end of 2016, when it landed both the creative and media accounts for Asia’s automotive powerhouse, Toyota. The pan-European business is valued at more than £1.2 billion over the next five years, and was snatched from France’s multinational giant, Publicis Groupe.
It followed The&Partnership having proved the power of its multidisciplinary capabilities a year earlier with ground breaking work for Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus. It had included a “Hoverboard” project that showed skateboarders trying to master a real-life hoverboard. One short film for the series generated some 55 million views on social, mostly for free, and more conversation around the Lexus brand than had been achieved in years. (Watch the video here). The leader of The&Partnership believes this is a sign of things to come.
“There’s a famous phrase in our industry,” notes Hornby, “usually attributed to either Unilever founder William Hesketh Lever or the U.S. retailer John Wanamaker, that goes something like this: ‘I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted—my only problem is that I don’t know which half.’ Well, today it’s more of a moot point; increasingly we do know which half is working.
“If we’ve told you a story about a car, we now know how many people have seen the message. We can track how many people have configured a version of the car using the online personalization tool provided. It doesn’t have to be a purchase decision, but during every activity there should be some sign of interaction that helps build a picture.”
The U.K. has been quick to adapt to the changing needs of the new media landscape, and continues to be a magnet for international brands of all sizes.
“It’s our job now to tell stories, short and long, fast and slow, to help people build brands in very different ways,” says Hornby, “and to do that now, you have to approach it differently. Once again, I think it is an area in which the U.K. is taking a global lead role.”
See more of the campaign, Believe in the UK, by Bloomberg Media’s in-house content agency, Bloomberg Media Studios.