Creative Industries: The cool economy: an inside view

Two media executives discuss their industries
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The Independent Online
Gail Rebuck chief executive

Random House

1: What are the main issues and challenges facing the British publishing industry?

"The British publishing industry is basically sound. Our average annual growth rate from 1990 to 1996 was 6 per cent. The number of books published in the UK increased from 64,000 to 102,000 in the period.

There has been consolidation in book retailing. That's what the Waterstones story was about. But at the same time we've seen interesting start-ups - The Fourth Estate, Bloomsbury.

We now see the arrival of the American book-selling chains in Britain, such as Borders. There's further change in retailing, with the possible merger of Dillon's and Waterstones and the recovery of WH Smith.

Then there's the Internet and selling books over it. We don't know exactly how this will affect us. It's a question of watch this space."

2: What does British book publishing contribute to the UK economy?

"Britain is a world leader in book publishing. It contributed pounds 980m in exports in 1996 (the last year for which full figures are available) and there are spinoffs: from Jane Austen to Trainspotting, books form the basis of films."

3. What can the Government do to help UK book publishing?

"Through the Publishers Association we have been in dialogue with many departments in this and previous governments. They are helping ensure protection of intellectual property through copyright law.

As with most industries, we benefit from greater literacy and a stable economy. We also need well-stocked libraries."

Eric Salama, director of strategy, WPP

1: What are the main issues/challenges facing the British advertising industry today?

"I think there are two main issues: First, we haven't done a good enough job of convincing people that there is value in what we do; the advertising industry as a whole hasn't sufficiently demonstrated to clients how advertising and communications work. Also, our business depends on getting good people, yet we're not getting a good enough stream with the intuition, creativity and business skills the industry requires."

2: What does the advertising industry contribute to the UK economy at present in terms of jobs, tax revenues, GDP, etc., and what does it have the potential to contribute, given the right circumstances?

"It's hard to break it down, but you can measure its value in terms of the number of people who are employed in the industry, or by the fact that every product and service sold in the UK depends on the quality of communications that surrounds it. Cars, for example, form a huge part of the economy and design and communications are fundamental to how people think about them. Advertising cannot make a bad product good, but design and communications can make or break a product."

3: How can the government help advertising?

"We need to take a hard look at the educational system. How are people taught to think? Can we structure it so people have a certain approach to creativity? It's not a question of financing, it's getting intelligent, curious, motivated people into the industry."