Every day brings a new wave of headlines surrounding how and when the UK will ease out of recession. Whilst there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the state of the economy, most people agree that we are beginning to see a glimmer of hope. Recovery might be long and slow, but it seems we have at least turned the corner.
This is good news for creative industries in the South West. Marketing activity – or, not to put too fine a point on it, marketing spend – is a true barometer of the economy at large. Rightly or wrongly, marketing is the first sector to feel the pinch when times are hard. Conversely, when business leaders believe that the future might be a little rosier, it is the first to feel the lifeblood returning.
Recent research by the DMA backs this up. Findings indicate that there will be a 7 per cent growth in the direct marketing industry in the final months of 2012, taking the annual equivalent spend to £15.2 billion. The South West is set to reap the benefits since the creative sector is growing more rapidly here than anywhere else in the UK. According to Government figures, 8.2 per cent of the UK’s advertising enterprises are based in the region, so this could equate to £1.2 billion. It is no exaggeration to say that the creative industries will be at the forefront of the South West’s economic recovery.
So where is this growth going to be felt? Most businesses polled in the research placed great emphasis on digital marketing. The results showed projected increases in email marketing (11.9 per cent), social media marketing (8.1 per cent) and internet search advertising (6.3 per cent). It is expected that both agency and in-house marketing teams in the region will boost their headcounts to meet the increased workload. Digital specialists and training providers are likely to be at a premium as marketing industry leaders seek to enhance and develop their teams’ skills.
However, there are also agencies in the region who are already poised for the surge in digital business. They have acted carefully and strategically throughout the recession, in some cases completely realigning their business, in readiness for the brighter days ahead. The region is no longer wholly dominated by Bristol either – there are several hubs of digital expertise, particularly on the south coast.
The South West has long had a reputation for creative talent. Now it has proved that creativity is just one part of what’s on offer. Agencies have had the foresight and bravery to not just weather the economic storm, but to turn threat into opportunity. They have demonstrated that by marrying creative talent with strategic nous, they can deliver innovative, targeted marketing activity with exceptional results.
Last year’s DMA Awards were a case in point. For the first time in the Awards’ history, agencies from the South West stole the show. Bristol’s Indicia won a clutch of gongs, including the coveted Grand Prix for its work with Very.co.uk. Other winning agencies included Cheltenham’s Tangible Response and TDA as well as EHS4D in Cirencester. Winning a DMA is no mean feat. The Awards are widely recognised as the toughest to win in the industry, with a rigorous judging procedure and strict criteria surrounding results and strategy as well as creative.
For the past three years, many brands have had to ‘make do and mend’ with their marketing. Now they are looking for fresh ideas and approaches – and re-considering where they should go to get maximum bang for their marketing buck.
My money is on the South West as a primary destination for brands seeking new agencies. After all, great creative, excellent results and cost effectiveness never go out of fashion.
The full South West regional review can be read in the 26 October issue of The Drum.