How Brexit will Affect the Digital Landscape

How Brexit will Affect the Digital Landscape

We think proactive marketing and digital investment will be the defining factor in the outcome. Andrew Thomson analyses.

June 28, 2016         Read 2503 times

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union on 23rd June has sent shockwaves across the world for better or worse – it’s set to change virtually every aspect of British life. The question is, what are those changes going to be? More specifically, how will leaving the EU impact the UK’s digital industry?

In the short term, further investment in digital and marketing projects will be, for the most part, suspended until the mist clears around the specifics of the exit deal. This may take months, especially considering the Conservative leadership election will be dragged out until October before work starts on a historic new deal. Until such a time, uncertainty always breeds a lack of movement amongst investors. WPP’s CEO Sir Martin Sorrell was in agreement that the uncertainty will “deter activity”.

Should negotiations fail to capture businesses’ imagination in terms of the benefits of operating in a post-Brexit Britain, that quashing of investment may well continue as larger companies look to relocate their headquarters strategically.

On a much smaller scale, freedom of the EU may mean escaping some of the regulation placed upon businesses online, assuming it isn’t just copied & pasted into new British legislation. Most notably, companies would potentially no longer be bound by Cookie laws, which places ownership of people’s data into the user’s hands – requiring businesses to request access to that information rather than automatically receiving it.

However, the wiping of the slate and starting afresh leaves the door open for serious changes to privacy and data protection laws. Although this won’t become clear-cut for a long while, digitally active businesses should keep a weather eye out for any changes on this front. Significant overhaul here would change the way businesses would need to operate online.

As the leave campaign has long said, this is some of the large amount of red tape that could potentially be cut through in the next few years, which frees up a business’ resources and time to devote further to other aspects.

There are also indications of a cultural advertising shift coming to fruition over the next few years, which will be important to react to. The electorate’s choice to become a Britain independent of European jurisdiction perhaps represents a wish to find pride in being British, something that is somewhat lacking at present. The best marketers will be those who react to those changes the quickest. This advertising shift will affect digital industries in sync with itself in the way campaigns are run, copy is written and websites & apps are designed. Of course, this hinges on the success of our independence.

On that point, it is imperative for businesses not to be ironclad in a lack of investment in digital and marketing. By leaving, the electorate has opted for very much a leap of faith into the wider world. From a marketing perspective, marketers should be reflecting that mindset in their decisions. The next two years, whilst the change blows in the background, will still look very much the same as the current climate. By adapting and investing, businesses can therefore make the best of the changes, rather than remaining stagnant and refusing to react.

In the referendums wake, figures such as Young & Rubicam’s European President Andrew Dimitriou has suggested that British creative brands will suffer, with a lot of work being transferred to other European creative capitals like Berlin and Paris. It is likely that a sizeable brain drain may follow if that becomes the case, with under 30s in particular – who’s large contribution to the remain vote infers a strong continental affiliation – being persuaded to travel abroad by agencies seeking a more “European hub” to work from.

In evaluation, there are many facets to the impact of Brexit on the digital environment but the majority will depend on events yet to come to light. Strong initial negotiations from the British government will set the tone, but it is important to bear in mind that the real changes will come from hyper-reactive AND proactive digital businesses, opening the door for major landscape changes in digital communications.