Where should Government investment go?

Last week, my eye was caught by the Advertising Association calling for Government investment in the sector to kick-start economic growth – http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/bulletin/campaign_daily_fix/article/1169102/ad-bosses-call-govt-investment/?DCMP=EMC-CONCampaignDailyFix (sorry the link doesn’t work, but it cut and pastes fine…). Apparently, £1 invested in advertising generates £6 for the British economy – a quicker and more effective driver of growth than investing, for example, boring old infrastructure. In fact, removing advertising spend takes a whopping £100billion out of the economy.

Well, all that’s very impressive, but in an age of austerity, is this kind of call to action really a good idea? The Advertising Association is asking for a range of actions in response – the Government encouraging SMEs to invest more in marketing and business development, and what seems to be lots of talk about cutting regulation and reducing red tape – but, at the heart of it, who’s the audience here, and what are we trying to persuade them to buy in to?

On the whole, the marketing sector is not one that attracts a great deal of public sympathy. We’re skewed towards London, earn above average wages, and don’t produce output as the same tangible value as say, a nurse or a builder. I suspect most people if asked where to put Government investment (whether time or financial) would be a lot happier with hospitals and train lines, than with making it easier for companies to sell things to you, in a less regulated way.

The creative industries are obviously a massive asset to the UK, and I don’t dispute the fact that advertising, PR and marketing all have an important contribution to make to the economy.  But I do think we have to be careful about pitching ourselves against other sectors which rate higher in the average voters’ eye, in front of politicians, at a time where a little bit of sensitivity might not go astray. If we can transform the economy through our magical selling ability, I’m sure we can find better channels to tell the story of our contribution.

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