JH: As a native of Northern Ireland what do you think of the 2013 City of Culture title awarded to Derry-Londonderry?
TH: It’s a huge opportunity for the city and Northern Ireland.
With the recession and more pressure on budgets I think that Northern Ireland’s ‘commercial creative services’ sector could be punching above its weight through its ‘value’ offering whilst looking to attract marketing investment from the rest of the UK and internationally.
However, the quality of agencies and services in Northern Ireland has to be considered.
Agencies mustn’t be seen as representing a provincial backwater, but more a dynamic, marketing literate, business community.
JH: How can Northern Ireland creative agencies compete?
TH: 2013 City of Culture represents a wonderful opportunity for Northern Ireland’s marketing communications industry to market itself both internally and externally.
Sir John Hegarty, the worldwide creative director of Bartle Bogle and Hegarty, has pointed out it is now 30% cheaper for overseas companies to ‘create’ in the UK. With the decline in our currency we now offer unprecedented value.
Given that government has long seen creativity as a potential export, rather than a spiritual asset, I think Sir John has a point.
Factor in the cost of sourcing creative services from Belfast or Derry and compare to London prices, why aren’t Northern Ireland agencies putting their heads above the parapet?
With the focus on Northern Ireland and opportunity that Derry-Londonderry City of Culture 2013 offers, I’m looking forward to agencies, across all marketing communications disciplines, gearing up their own marketing and begin to have the confidence to compete nationally and internationally, as well as locally.
JH: How strong is the marketing industry at the moment?
TH: Growth in the creative and media industries has been fuelled not just by the continuing emergence of the digital channel and the proliferation of online and mobile communications.
Throughout the industry, as demands upon innovative creative and media drive exciting and challenging programmes, there is little prospect of the innovation engine that powers this global growth slowing any time soon.
Our industry, in its broadest terms, is set to continue its growth and indeed its share of economic activity throughout the world.
It strikes me that Northern Ireland’s blossoming digital industry should be fighting its corner on the world stage and what better opportunity that to showcase it to the world than through Derry-Londonderry City of Culture in 2013?
In fact, to put all this in perspective, the global ‘creative cluster ‘(defined variously as arts, culture, design and media), has now become a major player in developed economies.
JH: How valuable is the creative sector here?
TH: In the European Union this sector’s turnover is over €654bn (according to 2003 estimates) and this accounting for 2.6% of EU GDP…and a massive 6m jobs.
Closer to home the figures are even more dramatic – here in UK, the sector (according to UK govt stats) was worth over £60bn in 2008, employing a staggering 2m people directly or indirectly in the industry, and contributing to over 7.3% of GDP.
Clearly, we know the UK has a leading global role in the creative and media industries, but you may be surprised to learn that in Ireland the figures are even more impressive – a massive 7.6% of GDP or €11.8bn is accounted for and this sector employing 8.7% of the workforce, incidentally worth an estimated €300bn to the Irish exchequer!
JH: How many jobs does that translate into?
TH: When you also take into account that in Northern Ireland there are some 2,500 creative firms employing over 34,000 people, the island of Ireland can be seen as significant player in the European creative industry and the important bit – with loads of potential within and without its borders.
The creative industries not only contribute towards the economy directly, they also have a powerful, indirect impact on the rest of the economy – by adding style, aesthetics and freshness to differentiate our products and services.
The creative industries also improve our quality of life and make our cities more vibrant by stimulating awareness and demand for the arts, design and media products and services.
As a native of Northern Ireland I was delighted that the 2013 City of Culture title was awarded as no other city deserves to be more invigorated by creative industries than Derry-Londonderry!
Read Part 1 of my Q&A with Tom Holmes on the Past, Present and Future of creativebrief and it’s role in the marketing industry.