18/12/2013 07:54 GMT | Updated 17/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Europe's Recession-Hit Economies Must Say 'Si' to Creativity

It is a truism that creativity can create something special from nothing; just look at the "starving artist" ideal made popular by Picasso and Modigliani, Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, or today's recession-busting artists such as Banksy.

Creative people "are well equipped to deal creatively with such situations", one Amsterdam artist told the New York Times at the start of the global downturn. "With a bit of persistence and optimism", she said, artists can "turn this recession into a point of strength."

If this axiom is understood in the world of the art, why are we still blind to its obvious relevance to business? And how can we prevent creative professionals forever being the first casualty of cuts?

The financial struggles felt throughout Europe in the last few years have led to a tightening of belts among marketing and communications budgets. In the UK, a study undertaken by the Institute for Practitioners in Advertising immediately following the 2008 slump argued that marketing was frequently ignored in businesses. In Spain, investment in creative work nosedived by up to 14 per cent in 2013.

Creativity through marketing is - and ever was - a crucial driver of the bottom line. However, it's also often the first area to be cut during an economic downturn. This can be blamed on the misconception that marketing is an 'add-on'. In fact, it is crucial to business, representing as much as 20 per cent of a company's value.

This is the message behind a groundbreaking campaign, coordinated by my employers Innocean, that brings together Spain's numerous advertisers, as well as several major brands. Publicidad - Si! (or Yes to Advertising) is currently flooding Spanish television, radio, press, billboards and internet with a deliberately direct and simple message; the creative industries are of crucial importance to the national economy. "With each euro invested in advertising, we grow socially, culturally and economically, and we improve as a country", says Fernando Amenedo, Managing Director of Coca-Cola Spain and President of the Spanish Association of Advertisers (AEA).


It is clear that creatives need to fight their corner. Far from being expendable, a creative's ability to generate value out of nothing makes them even more crucial during difficult times when money is tight. In Spain, the industries contribute 2 per cent to the national economy, and create more than 150,000 jobs. In a country currently where more than half of young people are not in education, employment or training, this is a precious resource.

There is also clear evidence that marketing and advertisement drive the success of brands. Research shows that globally, those organisations that invest in marketing in a recession emerge strongest when recovery comes. Global names like Britvic and Sainsbury's have attributed recent rises in share value to inspired marketing campaigns, like the drinks manufacturer's Wimbledon ads.

The creative industries could even be the key to European recovery. The European marcomms industry has an annual market value of €500 billion, contributes 3 per cent of the EU's GDP, and employs about 6 million people.

The marketing creatives of Europe have huge potential to create value. They play a crucial role in the economy, accelerating the growth of enterprise and new businesses - not just in Spain, but all over the continent. To speed up Europe's emergence from the doldrums, leaders only need to say 'Si!' to creativity.