The Advertising Association is leading, moving and shaking

I’m not shallow about industry events; I judge them by a strict, professional metric: the number of movers and shakers per square inch. If it is a satisfactory level then I will feverishly pinball round the room trying to meet everyone I know or ingratiate myself with those I don’t. On this basis alone, the Advertising Association’s Lead 2014 was a success.

Were you there? You should have been. It was an extremely worthwhile use of a morning. If you weren’t then you can catch up with it on-demand here.

But, in case you can’t be bothered or like most people prefer to watch things live, I have decided to distil its greatness into not one, not two, not three, but four highlights. It wasn’t all perfect of course – I’m staring at you, Helen Goodman MP; those people who kept implying ‘digital’ (sigh) was the one thing SMEs should turn to (while ignoring the fact that TV, radio, newspapers are all digital); and those who implied that these days you don’t have to invest as much in advertising to have great effects. But, other than such isolated incidents, all good.

Advertising Pays 2
The AA used the event to launch its latest econometric study into how advertising pays back to the UK economy, ‘Advertising Pays 2: How advertising can unlock UK growth potential’. This is valuable, fresh ammo in the fight to get advertising the recognition and investment it deserves. You should read it. The key points are:

* UK SMEs account for 50% of jobs, 40% of turnover but only 18% of ad spend
* 30% of UK SMEs currently invest in advertising 
* 64% of SMEs believe advertising ‘has been a success’ with the same number seeing it as value for money 
* Every £1 spent on SME advertising has eight times the relative impact on growth as £1 spent on advertising for larger firms

Laurence Green
The man from 101 is a class act. He persuasively talked about how to make the case for SMEs to invest in advertising, what’s holding them back, the need to educate them, and some government initiatives that exist to help. He also gave a great example of an SME that has successfully used advertising – Gü’s brilliant and effective TV campaign.

He very eloquently summed up one of the main challenges to getting SMEs to advertise: “Most SMEs are travelling with their noses to the windscreen. They are on dipped headlights not full beam. They are looking at the short term not the long. They are looking at cash flow not share price. And as a result advertising looks like a cost.” We all need to make sure they realise it is an investment.

Jamie Isenwater from Ash Park Capital
It was so refreshing to hear someone from the world of finance talking about the value of advertising. Isenwater was behind a piece of research which proved that higher ad spend drives faster sales growth and that the extra profit more than pays for the extra ad investment – “that is why you’ve got a fantastic industry” he told the audience. The challenge is that the financial community as a whole doesn’t understand advertising and what it does…but it wants to, so it is an open door. You can watch him here.

Industry body language
The AA has come a long way in the three years since the first Lead summit. Lead is now a landmark in the advertising calendar and its body language speaks volumes about how it is galvanising our industry and putting it on the front foot (the name of one of the AA’s initiatives in fact). If I was wearing a hat I would tip it to Tim Lefroy and his talented team.

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