Opinion

Get ready for the creative invasion

4 min read

28 March 2014

The growth of Britain's creative industries is outperforming every other sector – this is a market ripe for opportunity, writes serial entrepreneur Tony Kelly.

You don’t get to my age and build a global company without learning a thing or two. In the last 20 years, when we’ve been launching On Demand into new territories and seeking to increase its market share, one key learning that has hit home time and time again is the importance of creative talent. 

You can have the best business in the world, but ideas have to be brought to life. If you don’t do that and people can’t understand or relate to your company, well then you’ve got some serious problems. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Facebook or a local dog grooming company, creative talent is what takes your brand to the masses.

And that’s why, having exited On Demand, I’m now looking at how I can invest in and help to grow the UK creative industry. 

If you’re quick to dismiss creatives as “the colouring-in department”, it’s time you started revising your opinion. In January this year, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the value of the creative industry to the UK economy is £8m per hour. Not only that, but its growth is outperforming all other sectors and now accounts for just shy of 6 per cent of UK jobs. Such statistics speak for themselves in terms of the growth and investment opportunities that exist.

But don’t be creative for the sake of it

The real power and potential of the creative industries is that they touch all aspects of a business across multiple sectors, whether you’re a telco, a supply chain company or a retailer. Creative helps to build businesses. 

Yet the key to good creative is not being creative for the sake of it. For the industry to continue to grow, brands investing in creative expertise need to see real, tangible ROI. 

This is critical, as in order to remain fresh and relevant, brands find themselves constantly launching new products or concepts. This necessitates continuous engagement with their audiences. 

But consumers are a savvy bunch. To break into their multi-screen, multi-device bubble you need to be smart, not just chuck out any old thing into the ether. Creative needs to create reactions, but the right ones and these reactions need to be measurable in terms of what they deliver to a company’s bottom line.

If UK companies can crack this last point, then it can become a world leader in developing and exporting creative talent. But much like a start up experiencing rapid growth, the sector faces many similar pain points. 

How can it establish best practices? How does it educate brands about its value? How does it demonstrate that value? Do agencies have the right business skills to expand their offering on the international stage? How does the sector scale?

These are all questions that are intrinsic to the sector’s growth and what, as an investor, I find so exciting. The potential of the creative industry is clear to see, but what makes it really compelling are the business problems it will need to address as it continues to grow. The right business strategy will make or break companies operating in this sector. After all it’s not just creative, but the application of that creative in a commercial manner to accelerate business growth that counts.

Tony Kelly is the chairman of integrated communications and creative agency Collider.