Experts from London’s advertising industry came together in Le Jardin de Clear Channel UK in the Grand Hotel in Cannes on Tuesday at an event sponsored by London & Partners to discuss the magic that goes into making and maintaining the city as a thriving global creative hub. Journalist Chloe Street takes a closer at the key takeouts from the session.
Panel moderator Louise Conolly-Smith, Head of Creative at London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s promotional company, kicked off the discussion by asking the panel what it is they think that makes London such a special place to do business.
For James Murphy, exports champion for the Advertising Association and founder of adam&eveDDB it’s that “London has an unrivalled critical mass in terms of technology and talent which makes globalisation possible for a boutique start up.”
James Hebbert, UK Managing Director of Hylink, a company that helps UK companies set up in China and vice versa, was in agreement that language, geographical location and a transparent legal system were all pivotal to London’s success as a global hub. “That ease of business stereotype is true,” he said, explaining that Hylink are currently establishing an office in Paris and, in contrast to London, have found the process encumbered by paperwork and opaque legal systems and regulations.
The discussion then moved on to when and how companies should open offices in cities around the world. For Alex Goat, CEO of youth marketing agency Livity, physical satellite offices are no longer necessary. “We work with an amazing network of freelancers,” she said. “We just don’t need a footprint all around the world anymore.”
Murphy agreed that a global network of offices on the ground isn’t necessary anymore. “Expanding adam&eve, we did most of it using digital tools and ways of working,” he said, explaining that some Asian clients preferred the idea that work was being done by Londoners than locals.
To this point, James Hebbert said there was a trend among his Chinese clients opening offices in the West to hire local London talent rather than bringing Chinese talent with them as they used to.
“In London you have a soup of talent from all over the world,” said James Murphy, explaining that when Brexit happened, 34 per cent of the adam&eveDDB workforce was from overseas and the staff collectively spoke over 50 languages. The strength of operating in London has, for him, always been that if you took on a new client and didn’t have a staff member who spoke the language you needed, “you could hire them pretty quick.”
“That’s the concern with Brexit,” he continued, “will we still have this varied talent pool once we leave the EU?”
Hebbert assured that when it comes to China, Brexit is not regarded as a major issue, and that business relationships between both countries are positive. “The Chinese think long term and they see Brexit as a blip,” he said. “China needs to be part of London’s strategy Long term and vice versa.”
Murphy went on to state that Brexit is currently an “embarrassing mess.” And that “someone needs to take it by the neck and do a buccaneering Brexit.” He thinks we need to use favourable taxation and visas to show that if we were an appealing place to work while we were in the EU, we are even more so once we have left.
“Once we have certainty,” said Murphy, “I think London will boss its way through Brexit.”