How London beat Germany to be Europe’s leading ad industry hub

Soho, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch attract creatives from across Europe (Source: Getty Images)
Figures from Zenith Optimedia last week forecast that, this year, the UK advertising industry will outstrip Germany’s in size for the first time. Once, this would have been unthinkable.
When I started the London offshoot of German advertising agency Scholz & Friends, many in the industry said I’d lost my mind. This wasn’t so much coals to Newcastle as dirt to the diamond mine. Our industry in Germany, as with most things in that country, was, and still is, extremely well-run.
I saw fabulous creative work out of Scholz in Berlin, as well as Jung Von Matt, Springer & Jacoby. But as I said at the time, that creative work didn’t constitute a high enough percentage of their total output compared to that of the UK industry. It’s true still.
The fact that UK expenditure will now overshoot Germany’s is really something. Of course, they are not having the kind of economic lift we’re having in the UK right now, but then they never experienced as deep a recession as we did.
The answers lie in London – in Soho yes, but also in Clerkenwell, in Shoreditch and soon at King’s Cross. You cannot find a German creative who doesn’t want to work in London at the moment – it’s the most desirable city in Europe for creatives because it encourages, sells and fosters the edgy, not least because we have the great gift and global joy of the English language.
Germans speak and want to communicate and advertise in English. And so does everyone else.
Further, twenty-first century technology brings London’s unique creative industries to the world, allowing the capital’s best talent to work across borders and oceans. Our output is the most creative and relevant in the world ­– but I know that our facility with our language is a priceless asset.
What’s more, the technology we’re able to use today enables the development of craft skills in rapid time. I remember how long it took people to become adept at typesetting by hand, let alone really good at it.
In London’s incubators at Tech City, like Wayra, startups are developing amazing new ways to enhance experience and services, at both the messenger and receiver ends. For example, algorithms can now tell a company the level of stress in a customer’s voice at a call centre. This is one of the many nuanced insights we once thought would never be possible.
Such innovations directly affect our industry – both helping us to sell our edge, and making it scalable geographically.
London has been the first of Europe’s major cities to really capitalise on social media, and in this field we have quite simply outstripped the rest of Europe. If clients now want social media linked to their offline advertising – and increasingly they do – this means they want London.
Of course, other cities are on the rise as well: Amsterdam possibly, and the wider UK. In fact, I would rate Manchester up against 99 per cent of the European offerings in this particular area.
It’s not right to say that communication technology alone has allowed us to export London’s ideas, leading our ad spend to outstrip Germany’s. Instead, the digital infrastructure revolution simply allows the best to step forward. And the fact is, the best are usually found in the UK ad industry these days.
We’re back: stronger, faster and more flexible than anyone anywhere else in Europe. Long may we reign.
Kate Robertson is co-global president of Havas Worldwide.

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