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US the big buyer as the UK's ad industry hits $9 billion in overseas sales

The UK's Advertising Association is running a campaign highlighting the diversity of people who work in the industry in the U.K.
Advertising Association | adam&eveDDB

The U.K. advertising industry exported £6.9 billion ($9.1 billion) worth of services in 2017 and the U.S. is its largest buyer, according to a report published Tuesday.

The U.S. bought £1.1 billion of ad services from British companies in 2017 (the most recently-available figures), followed by France with £655 million and Germany with £619 million, according to data published in the Advertising Association's U.K. Advertising Exports Report 2019. Britain sold £3.2 billion of advertising services to the European Union as a whole.

Digital ad business Jellyfish, for example, works for U.S. clients including Uber, Ford and Ebay and also used Google's marketing platform for an ad campaign for independent U.S. wine store Total Wine & More. British agency Crowd, meanwhile, created a digital campaign for the Napa Valley Film Festival in November. The U.K. ad industry ran its first whole-day event at the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas earlier this month.

The £6.9 billion worth of ad services sold overseas in 2017 is 18 percent up on the 2016 figure of £5.8 billion. The ad industry sells more overseas than legal services, insurance and publishing, but less than telecommunications or engineering services, its report states. The UK's biggest service export is IT, an industry that made £9.5 billion in selling overseas in 2017.

Brexit push

As uncertainty over Brexit continues, the British ad industry is keen to show its expertise and openness to hiring talent from overseas. It ran a marketing campaign highlighting the diversity of people who work in the sector in 2017 and the Advertising Association's new research suggests that 69 percent of businesses are concerned about keeping their non-EU staff after Brexit. Fifty-seven percent are concerned about their ability to recruit new international staff.

Advertising Association Exports Champion James Murphy said the U.K. ad industry has a "fearless" approach. "As we approach Brexit, it is crucial that we champion our industry on the world stage and pursue bold policies in key areas like being open to overseas talent, ensuring a complementary regulatory environment and continuing to develop a strong exporting strategy," he said in a release emailed to CNBC.