London is a global hothouse for the creative and digital industries, right?
Wrong, the UK is. For too long, the London agency community has behaved as if nothing meaningful exists outside the M25. Never has this been more misguided than today.
We enjoy a thriving agency community in Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool, to mention just a handful of cities. Seventy-four per cent of digital companies are located outside the capital, according to a recent Tech City report.
Ahead of Havas Media opening in Manchester this month, as part of our new Havas Village, I have spent a lot of time recently around the M62 corridor.
The quality of agencies and thinking, particularly in the digital and trendy content space, is remarkably strong.
Leeds is a hotbed for data start-ups, given recent government grants, and Manchester is thriving thanks to its £1 billion investment in Media City. But it goes deeper than this. There’s an infectious energy, entrepreneurial spirit and “can do” attitude that sets it apart. There has been a 70 per cent increase in new digital companies in recent years, generating a thriving start-up community.
Perhaps there’s an element of proving a point here as the north-west seeks to be the equal of London.
Manchester is attractive to employers and talent, with lower rents and staff costs, plus a better equilibrium between life and work.
It’s a myth that agencies outside London only serve local, second-rate clients. The successful digital shops increasingly have impressive international reach, thanks to a connected rail network and easy access to Europe.
Midas estimates that the Greater Manchester area alone annually provides more than 7,000 graduates with creative and media qualifications and another 6,000 with qualifications in computer science.
These are some of the reasons that Havas chose to be the first media network to open its doors in Manchester for more than a decade.
Many media agencies seem to have different identities in the north compared with London, and share a common sense of being disconnected and forgotten.
There appears to be a misguided and pompous air of superiority among the agency community in London. From my recent experience, much of the innovation and revenue growth emanates from what George Osborne calls the Northern Powerhouse.
We are placing a big bet on growth outside London. Most broadcast and out-of-home media owners, plus the likes of Google, have already invested time and energy here for a few years. Others should do the same.
Published on Campaign