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What does Brexit mean for marketing agencies?

It’s permeated every aspect of life for the past nine months and with Theresa May triggering Article 50 this week, Brexit looks set to dominate them for a further two years. Regardless of how you voted in the referendum, we had all better get used to the changes that are coming.

So what can marketing agencies expect over the next couple of years and beyond? We’ve taken a look at three key areas pivotal to success.

1 – Clients

Quelle surprise – changes to a clients’ business have a fundamental impact on their relationship with an agency! This was illustrated perfectly in June last year. Uncertainty is no one’s friend and we saw immediately after the referendum that insecurity had a crippling effect on some businesses.

Clients who had parts of their supply chain from the EU saw their prices change overnight, while the crash in the pound saw the buying power of clients diminish.

The knock-on effect for clients was a period of caution –marketing activity was paused while they figured-out short term plans to mitigate further potential issues. Of course, what those issues would transpire to be was anyone’s guess.

Fortunately, the economic doom and gloom that was predicted following the Leave Vote failed to materialise. Indeed, many FTSE 100 companies who trade in dollars benefited massively from the weaker pound.

Many issues were pre-managed – the chief guide through this being experience in that sector and market. But as the timetable for Brexit became clearer most companies returned to mid-term planning, enabling agencies all over the UK to refocus activity and priorities, in the case of Fantastic so we could continue to deliver creative marketing campaigns and help our clients’ businesses to grow.

We continue to do this, though with a careful eye on what life after March 29th 2019 will hold. The majority of our clients’ business is done in the UK and those that do have immediate, or even one-step-removed, supply chains outside the county have put plans in place in readiness for what might come.

2 -Talent

If clients are the life blood of a marketing agency, then talent is the heartbeat. Our team of marketers, designers, web developers, copywriters and campaign managers drive the work we deliver as an agency.

While most of our current staff won’t be impacted directly by changes to freedom of movement, the concern for many agencies is the dwindling pipeline of fresh talent.

Even with the open borders and benefits that the European Union brings, we are starting to see shortages in certain areas and, as skills in marketing technology and disciplines evolve, particularly around digital marketing, AI and web development, this may cause more concern in the future.

It’s a headache all agencies will just have to cope with. If the UK workforce in these areas doesn’t accelerate quickly and movement of graduates from overseas is halted or diminishes as a result of Brexit then we could see significant challenges to future growth.

3 – Innovation

From creative and brand to digital and PR, clients look to marketing agencies to be ideas factories. As a team of creative-minded individuals looking at trends across a range of industries and businesses, we are well placed to be able to think laterally to drive innovation within our own agencies and our clients’ businesses.

While geo-political events shouldn’t stifle innovation, it may place restrictions on it. Often within digital marketing we utilise an array of marketing technology products, some of which are developed in the UK, but many that are developed in the US or EU.

Many US providers we work with are based in the Republic of Ireland and continental Europe, so it remains to be seen how this will work of the back of new trade deals.

Looking on the bright side, these challenges will bring positives – our innovation and creativity will be challenged to develop solutions to these issues.

So what challenges will Brexit bring? The truth is that no one really knows. One thing is for certain however, agencies will have to work harder to meet their clients’ needs. They will have to innovate, be fleet-footed and pragmatic. We will have to deliver new ideas that push clients’ businesses forward.

But let’s be honest, at Fantastic at least, this isn’t really anything new.

 

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Ops director at Fantastic Media, varied background in physics, sports publishing, agency life and software.

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