What’s in store for 2019?
IAA Lunch: Global Outlook with Robert Ward
The excellent company, exquisite food, and general festivity, couldn’t disguise an air of uncertainty as guests gathered at L’Escargot for an intimate, exclusive lunch with The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Editorial Director, Robert Ward, hosted by the IAA.
Robert leads the EIU's country, industry, and data analysis and forecasting teams, playing a pivotal role in shaping their response to events and ensuring standards of editorial excellence are maintained. Just before Christmas, IAA members arrived at the legendary restaurant to hear first-hand what lies in store for the global economy in 2019 from the man in the know.
"The intimate setting put together by the IAA was well organized and thoughtfully crafted. I hugely enjoyed meeting other senior leaders in advertising (from around the world) and look forward to listening to other top-notch speakers like Robert Ward in the New Year" - Raquel Burbar, Director, T Brand Studio International, New York Times
Following a champagne reception and three-course lunch – during which conversation flowed as much as the wine – Robert delivered his much revered predictions for the 12 months ahead.
While Robert claimed that the backlash from the 2008 financial crash was still having an impact, with “seeds of turbulence” sown as long as 20 to 30 years ago; let’s start with the positives.
The general sentiment was that the economy looks “ok” – even though global growth is slowing – and we do have cheaper oil. On that point, Robert noted that Trump got lucky there, inheriting a “relatively good oil environment”.
Despite a somewhat shambolic start, 2018 saw Trump find his stride; he began making more decisions, and his policy and agenda is quite different to when he started – with a key focus on trade and the much debated trade tariffs. Robert presented a fair overview of Trump’s term in office to date, citing the reality that even Hilary Clinton would have been forced to “do similar things”, had she got into office.
“A most erudite and enjoyable afternoon” - Hannah McWilliam, Managing Partner, MediaCom
In the wider view, it was acknowledged that China is a strategic threat to the U.S. – mostly down to its advances in technology – and there is a real battle waging between the two countries. But, as Robert commented, there is always more going on under the bonnet – and while China is more vulnerable economically, Trump is more vulnerable politically. Ultimately we need to watch the political landscape closely, claimed Robert, as it could send forecasts off the rails if it goes wrong. Trump could stand again in 2020, said Robert, and even if he doesn’t – we can’t really undo what he has done.
Next was a discussion around Europe – with conversation dominated by Brexit, of course. With the news agenda changing on a daily basis – Robert declared that “no deal” would be a catastrophe and that a referendum could be on the cards. And as it stands, post Christmas, we are still waiting to see how the situation will play out, in what will be a crucial few months for the economy. Meanwhile Robert keenly awaits the fate of Theresa May.
Additionally, Robert touched on the advances in AI, particularly in China, where the tool is being used as form of repression and control – such as being used to record and damage individual’s “social credit score”, which some at the lunch remarked was akin to an episode of Black Mirror (S3:E1 Nosedive).
“A truly inspirational and eye watering encounter on what the future potentially holds for us all” - David Pugh Jones, CMO, LifeLabs
Finally, regarding advertising and what could lie in store for 2019, Robert focused very much on the issues of trust and transparency, and the shaking up of what is – and what is not – to be trusted. He talked of the advertising industry being at the forefront of change and very much at the “coalface”.
The full report, “The World in 2019” featuring in-depth commentary from The Economist’s formidable team of journalists, is available to buy now.
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