Tuesday 11 December 2018

AdLib: Warning hard Brexit may mean hard times for Irish marketers

Media & Marketing with Michael Cullen

Christmas cheer: RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy is fronting the ‘Save someone from a Life of Poverty’ Christmas ad campaign
Christmas cheer: RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy is fronting the ‘Save someone from a Life of Poverty’ Christmas ad campaign

Michael Cullen

As British prime minister Theresa May enters the final days of selling the EU exit treaty to MPs, how do Irish advertising and PR agencies see current prospects?

While most Irish exporters have done their homework on the likely effects of a hard Brexit on their business, what have local ad agencies done to evaluate the impact a no-deal could have on their fortunes?

Assuming that UK companies suffer a fall-off in sales in Ireland due to the arrival of EU import duties on their goods, would a cutback in advertising and PR spend in Ireland follow?

Core boss Alan Cox says a hard Brexit will spell big trouble for marketing budgets in Ireland. It will spark a high level of uncertainty and a lot of marketers will simply press the stop button.

Cox says marketing tends to react rather than pre-empt trading conditions. 

However, once problem issues arise, marketers respond quickly. Most clients assume a soft Brexit and have been cautious with their marketing plans. As agencies prepare client communications for 2019, Core executives haven't been asked to develop likely responses to a hard or soft Brexit.

Nonetheless, clients are concerned about the supply chains across Ireland, the UK and the EU as they are complex and have been built over a long period. Cox says any interference with these supply chains may cause major headaches for marketers, particularly grocery brands.

Public Relations Institute CEO Dr Martina Byrne says PR agencies are no different to other Irish businesses in being unsure about what might happen - an uncertainty which could see a domino effect.

Byrne is hopeful that Ireland's geographical closeness to the UK and the EU, our experience in working across markets, our country's educated and English-speaking workforce and our euro currency will be to PR's advantage - even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Byrne insists UK brand owners selling into the Republic will work harder to secure their Irish market share, regardless of customs or border restrictions.

Hats off to St Vincent de Paul (SVP) and its agency, In the Company of Huskies, for the 'Save someone from a life of poverty' Christmas ad campaign. Fronted by RTE's Ryan Tubridy, the two 30-second ads deal with a complex and emotional issue without being maudlin. The ads show how poverty darkens young people's lives and points to the way donations help lighten worries.

In one TV ad, viewers see an exam hall full of students, but with one empty desk. The student's mother had her work hours cut. The boy had to miss an important exam to keep food on the table. The exam has begun and there's little hope of him making it. In an emotional turn, the door opens, the student arrives and can sit the test.

Is there no end to Gary Brown's talents? Not only was the JWT Folk executive director a handy footballer in his day, he later took direct marketing and promotions to new heights. Now Brown's debut play, 'Back Live', is to get a two-week run at Connolly's Sheds pub in Clontarf in January. Starring Gary Cooke of 'Apres Match' fame, the Viking Theatre production is a tale of banter and shows how situations can get out of hand.

With just 18 shopping days to Christmas, Core reports on this year's Santa wish-list. Bikes get pride of place, followed by Lego. iPhones/iPads, LOL Surprise Dolls and PlayStation complete the top five. Sadly, gadgets nudge out hope of a trend towards train sets, a gift so beautifully eulogised by Peter Caffrey in Catherine Donnelly's perennial Barry's Tea radio ad.

And finally... Changes at AIB see group marketing director Tom Kinsella head up the bank's Homes Now programme. Brian Keating remains Kinsella's right-hand man, leading what AIB calls strategy, innovation and transformation - which basically involves moves on the home residential front. Group brands director Mark Doyle is now AIB's chief marketing officer.

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie;cullen@marketing.ie

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