UK advertising in a digital age Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Internet Advertising

1.Advertising fraud and misplacement present serious problems for the industry. They are caused by the lack of transparency in the digital media value chain. This has diminished trust within the market. There is a serious risk that advertisers, particularly smaller ones with less experience of the market and fewer resources, may not receive value for money. (Paragraph 55)

2.It is in the interests of the whole industry to take greater steps to self-regulate through independent third parties such as JICWEBS. We think that the largest industry bodies should commit to signing up fully to JICWEBS. We recommend that the industry should give these bodies greater powers to create and enforce rules establishing robust industry standards on measuring effectiveness and third-party verification. If businesses fail to do so, the Government should propose legislation to regulate digital advertising. (Paragraph 56)

3.We agree with the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) that content should not be made available for advertising placement unless it has been positively vetted. We ask ISBA what progress it has made in persuading online platforms to vet such content and what action still needs to be taken. (Paragraph 57)

4.The lack of transparency in the digital media advertising market hinders the ability of advertisers to ascertain whether they receive value for money. This is in part caused by the superfluity of ad tech intermediaries, but Google alone has control at all levels of the market. We recommend that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should conduct a market study of digital advertising to investigate whether the market is working fairly for businesses and consumers. (Paragraph 76)

5.As the UK leaves the EU, we call upon the Government to ensure that the CMA is properly resourced to take on the burden of cases that would otherwise be dealt with by the European Commission. (Paragraph 77)

6.Consumers do not pay for free online services, but in exchange they must give up their data. The dominance of Google and Facebook leads us to question whether current competition law is adequate to regulate the 21st century digital economy that is increasingly driven by personal data rather than money. We recommend that the Government should use the Digital Charter to gather evidence on this issue. (Paragraph 78)

7.Many advertisers and content providers flout the rule that online advertising must clearly be labelled as advertising. There is currently no standard way to label advertising, and so even those who comply with the rule are inconsistent in how they do so. At the same time, there is a poor understanding among consumers that much content has been paid for. (Paragraph 86)

8.We recommend that the Advertising Standards Authority should create a universal, mandatory logo to signify wherever online content has been sponsored by a brand. It should enforce the use of the logo next to any paid for text or video. Producers of content should continue to engage with their audiences in words to signify when content is sponsored. (Paragraph 87)

9.As we await the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, we remain concerned that many businesses exploit users’ data without informed consent. Nonetheless the ability to transfer data to and from the EU is essential for the advertising industry. We recommend that the Government should ensure that the UK maintains regulatory alignment with the EU on data protection. We are concerned that Brexit will cause the UK to lose its influence in setting EU rules for data protection which the UK is likely to remain aligned with post-Brexit. We recommend that the Information Commissioner’s Office has a position on the European Data Protection Board. (Paragraph 96)


10.The advertising industry, like other creative industries, requires workers with a fusion of artistic and science (STEAM) skills who can use digital skills creatively. Unfortunately, the education system encourages children to specialise in either arts or science subjects. (Paragraph 111)

11.There is a shortage of individuals with the requisite digital skills and the industry must compete for these with other sectors. We welcome steps taken by the Government to improve this. We are concerned, however, that in its efforts to promote these subjects, arts have been side-lined in the curriculum and in measurements of school attainment such as the English Baccalaureate. (Paragraph 112)

12.We recommend that the Government undertake a review of skills needed by the future economy and whether the education system reflects the needs of growing sectors, such as advertising and the creative industries. This will be increasingly important in the face of rising automation. In particular, the Government should review whether it is still appropriate for young people to specialise in either arts or science subjects at an early stage. Subjects should be introduced that blend arts and sciences for this fusion of skills is essential for the economy. (Paragraph 113)

13.We recommend that the English Baccalaureate must include the measurement of one arts subject. This will ensure that that the arts are properly recognised both by schools and the school league tables. (Paragraph 114)

14.The advertising industry’s requirements of the UK’s higher education system are rapidly changing whilst the industry’s traditional source of new entrants—universities—struggle to keep pace. (Paragraph 125)

15.We recommend that universities and the advertising industry work more closely with one another to create focused training and strong local connections. There are a number of examples of good practice in this regard but many university courses are disconnected from the needs of industry. (Paragraph 126)

16.Individuals from all communities and backgrounds should have access to employment in the creative sector. Improvement in diversity will also allow the advertising industry to access a larger talent pool which better reflects the advertisers’ audience and will help them understand their audiences better. However, industries that fail to provide clear and fair recruitment routes deter entrants from disadvantaged socio-economic groups and members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community. (Paragraph 144)

17.We recognise that the advertising industry has taken effective measures to improve diversity and to ensure that individuals of different ability, gender, ethnicity and class are properly represented in the industry’s workforce and ‘onscreen’. We recommend that in developing new routes to entry and when recruiting people from a range of backgrounds, the industry takes care to avoid its employees believing career progress requires compliance with industry stereotypes. (Paragraph 145)

18.We recommend that the industry should continue to show leadership and improve representation at senior levels. This is critical to embedding throughout the industry recognition that—as its business is to understand and influence citizens of all kinds—there are no barriers to success for people of all kinds. We therefore recommend that barriers to entering the industry such as informal recruitment procedures need to be removed. The Government should clarify, if necessary through legislation, that all internships and work experience programmes of more than four weeks should be remunerated and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs should take enforcement action against non-compliant businesses. The industry should develop and implement best practice such as ‘CV-blind’ recruitment processes, and encourage outreach and mentoring programmes. (Paragraph 146)

19.Professional careers advice is crucial to ensuring that the advertising industry has access to a diverse talent pool, including young people with digital skills. Comprehensive careers advice and employer interactions should start in every primary school and continue throughout pupils’ school careers. This will ensure that children and young people are fully aware of the range of advertising and creative industry roles available to them. We welcome the Government’s commitment to providing resources for careers advice at all levels of education. (Paragraph 158)

20.We recommend that the Government must provide more resources to deliver sufficient careers advice and employer interactions for all communities throughout the UK. The Government must also provide more resources to ensure greater employer interactions with primary school pupils and young people who have not yet chosen their GCSEs. In return, the industry should step up its campaigning efforts to promote advertising as a career to communities around the UK. The advertising industry must also provide more learning tools to schools with a view to introducing pupils, parents and teachers to the roles available in the industry. This learning provision should be supplemented with more visits to schools by advertising practitioners. (Paragraph 159)

21.We recognise that there are great time pressures on school timetables. We recommend that the Government should encourage schools to make time for employers to interact with children by taking account of such interaction activities when measuring school performance. (Paragraph 160)

22.We recommend that universities careers services should promote the opportunities offered by the advertising industry to digital and data students. (Paragraph 161)

23.We welcome the willingness of the advertising industry to use apprenticeships to improve diversity. However, the Government’s apprenticeship scheme is not appropriate for the advertising industry or the wider creative sector. It is failing to provide courses of adequate quality. The slowness in approving apprenticeship standards is limiting the scheme’s usefulness. Many small businesses lack the means to utilise the apprenticeship scheme properly. The inappropriateness of the levy for the creative industries was also noted in our previous report on skills training for the theatre industry. (Paragraph 181)

24.We recommend that the Government should undertake a comprehensive review of the apprenticeship scheme to ensure that it is suitable for the creative industries. Under the review, the Government should investigate how the period for the approval of training standards could be reduced and whether small advertising businesses could pool resources into a shared apprenticeship levy account. (Paragraph 182)

Access to international talent

25.Extending the tiered visa system to EU nationals will create an unmanageable barrier to finding and hiring the talent that the advertising industry needs to maintain its global success. It will also dis-incentivise EU freelancers from working in the UK and further reduce the advertising industry’s access to global talent. (Paragraph 210)

26.We recommend that Tier 4 visas should be extended to allow all students to work in the UK for at least two years after graduation. (Paragraph 217)

27.The UK advertising industry is a global leader because it has access to talented individuals from around the world, including the EU. These workers provide the cultural, creative, digital and languages skills which enable the UK to win advertising accounts from multi-national companies for global campaigns. The creative industries including the advertising industry are largely project-based which requires the rapid recruitment of freelance staff from the broadest field of talent. This type of recruitment is not possible under the UK visa system which is slow, expensive and restricted. (Paragraph 223)

28.As the UK leaves the EU, the Government must develop an immigration policy that works for businesses. We recommend that the visa system must be made easier and cheaper to navigate for both individuals and companies. (Paragraph 224)

29.We recommend that the Government should allow foreign nationals to work in the UK following an offer of permanent employment contract by a UK advertising employer. In negotiating the terms of free trade agreements with the UK’s trading partners, the Government should seek reciprocal arrangements for UK citizens wishing to work in those partner countries. (Paragraph 226)

30.We recommend that the Government should introduce a creative industries’ freelancer visa on the basis of reciprocal agreements with nations around the world. This will allow foreign freelancers to work in the UK and grant UK freelancers the right to work abroad. (Paragraph 227)

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