Britain’s advertising industry is to launch a campaign backing free movement of labour – its first major intervention in the Brexit debate.
The Advertising Association will release a report that highlights the importance of the industry to the UK economy, claiming that it is responsible for £120bn of turnover each year and supports around one million jobs.
However, more attention is likely to be focused upon the weight that the report places upon foreign talent working in the UK industry.
According to data from LinkedIn, more than half of all new workers joining London’s advertising and marketing businesses come from overseas, leading the association’s report to claim that “employers need this international talent to maintain performance and grow their business”.
Leaders from the industry will now use their report as a springboard for a campaign asking for a Brexit agreement that limits restrictions on foreign workers.
The association’s chairman James Murphy – also the chief executive of high-profile agency adam&eveDDB – spoke exclusively to Sky News.
Video: The ad sector’s pitch in Brexit debate
He said: “There are some early signs of global talent employed in the industry beginning to leave.
“It’s also a signal to potential clients that we are no longer internationally minded with a global outlook and so it is very important that the Government can work with us to ensure that bringing talent into the industry isn’t more difficult or more costly.
“We are working with huge multi-nationals and the one thing they dislike more than anything is uncertainty.
“We have enormous clients in Germany who come to the UK because they see the UK as the best market in the world to buy advertising services.
“The question is when that uncertainty overwhelms our ability to be the best market in the world – and that is hard to answer.”
Mr Murphy’s CV includes the John Lewis Christmas adverts as well as clients ranging from Volkswagen to Google.
He said the uncertainty created by Brexit has led to other countries trying to steal the UK’s crown as one of the world’s leaders in the advertising industry.
“It’s pretty clear that we work in a hyper-competitive market. There are other countries and cities desperate to take business away from us,” Mr Murphy said.
“We have already seen Amsterdam for example offering UK creative talent 30% of their salary tax-free and there will be other offers coming from other cities around the world.”
The advertising industry is not the first to lay down its view of the most important aspect of a Brexit deal.
The banking, pharmaceutical and automotive sectors have all put forward their own sets of demands, often focused upon cross-border tariffs.
The farming industry has made clear that it expects a system to replace European subsidies.
In advertising, though, the greatest demand is entirely upon the movement of labour.
“It’s critical to the entire advertising industry,” said Severine Charbon, the French woman who is global head of talent for the advertising giant Publicis Media.
“We are a talent industry – and you get creativity with a diverse team. But now people are concerned, and they are asking questions.”