The secret to the UK’s creative success

LinkedIn data is helping to show how cultural diversity and international talent drive the success of UK advertising

October 18, 2017

UK advertising

Advertising is the UK’s powerhouse: an industry in which it leads the world, and an industry that makes an outsized contribution to the country’s economy. UK advertising did not get this way by chance – it has done so through a hard-won position as the most attractive city for international creative talent. LinkedIn data, which has been used to inform an in-depth analysis of the industry by the Advertising Association, shows how this cultural diversity is the UK ad industry’s key competitive advantage.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from the report, Advertising Pays 6: World Class Talent, World Class Advertising or view our infographic below:

The economic contribution of advertising to the UK
Deloitte estimates that for every £1 spent through the UK’s advertising industry, the economy as a whole benefits by £6. This massive multiplier effect results from the close to 1 million jobs that the industry supports both directly and indirectly (3.2% of all employment in the country). It also includes the business growth that it enables, the market efficiency that it drives, and the impact of advertising creativity on innovation, differentiation and brand value. Advertising also plays a huge role in supporting the digital economy and the media and creative industries. The overall contribution of advertising to UK GDP is £120 billion – 6.4% of total GDP.

These headline figures are impressive. However, LinkedIn data enabled the Advertising Association to go further. We analysed the aggregated, anonymised data of 328,000 LinkedIn members that we identified as working within the advertising industry in the UK, to provide a more in-depth picture of talent trends in the sector.

London: The world’s creative hub
London has more advertising and marketing professionals per 10,000 LinkedIn members than any other major advertising hub that we analysed: more than New York, Sydney, Paris and Amsterdam. This is partly because London has established itself as the pre-eminent hub for global advertising talent. Over half (53%) of all new arrivals to London’s advertising and marketing workforce are from overseas; in fact, 2.5% of all those working in advertising and marketing in London have arrived from abroad in the last 12 months.

In the report, a broad line-up of senior UK advertising leaders confirm that this regular flow of international talent is crucial to their agencies’ success. “The explicit brief from our clients is that we bring cultural diversity into our teams,” explains St. John Walshe, Managing Director of the advertising agency BBDO in Europe. “They don’t want solely Anglo-Saxon faces showing up at a meeting telling them how to run their campaigns in France, Germany, India and Brazil.”

The importance of cultural diversity to UK advertising
There is growing evidence that a diverse workforce brings competitive advantage in any industry. According to McKinsey, ethnically and racially diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above the national industry median. In advertising, the ability to bring together different cultural perspectives and life experiences is an essential part of the creative process, and a huge advantage to an agency’s ability to respond to a broad range of international briefs. It also helps to explain why UK advertising has been so successful in exporting its creativity. It's the place where brands and agencies from a wide range of global markets turn when looking for creative inspiration.

In this context, the more diverse UK advertising’s sources of talent, the better for its competitiveness. Over the last 12 months, our analysis reveals an inflow of talent from a wide range of different countries, with the USA (14.7% of arrivals) and Australia (11.5%) making the largest single-country contributions. However, the single most important region contributing to the diversity of the UK advertising industry is the European Union (EU). Well over a third (37%) of all those arriving to work in advertising come from EU countries, including 8.4% from France, 5.3% from Italy and 4.4% from Spain.

The challenges of talent mobility
The flow of talent is not just one way. The UK sends advertising professionals to cities such as Sydney (where they represent 34.6% of those arriving to work in advertising), Amsterdam (19.8%), New York (17%) and Paris (16.8%). A constant flow of people from the UK’s advertising businesses enhances the quality of other international hubs with the experience and knowledge they acquired here. It also means that advertising talent working in the UK has plenty of other options to choose from to progress their careers.

Why the UK needs a healthy ad industry
Although a higher proportion of international advertising professionals are based in London, far from all of them are. In total, 57% of the people working in advertising in the UK are located outside the capital, with Manchester the biggest advertising hub after London. Advertising is a national industry, not a London-specific one, and the benefits of the industry are spread across much of the country.

Nailing down what drives creativity has never been easy. In the past, we’ve relied on subjective judgments anecdotes and impressions to explain what establishes competitive advantage in creative industries. We’re very proud to have been able to use LinkedIn’s unique data set to inform the debate around why the UK has such a vibrant and influential advertising industry, and the role that international talent plays within it. As the sector faces challenges, both from within and externally, we hope that this data helps employers, policy makers and educators to ensure the UK’s advertising sector continues to thrive. 

View our infographic below:

  • The secret to the UK’s creative success