According to the latest IPA Bellwether survey, marketing spend is at its highest level in the 13 years since the report has been published. UK ad spend is now projected to be 2.4 per cent in 2013 and 3.6 per cent in 2014, while the survey found a net increase of 12.3 per cent in companies registering an increase in advertising budgets. The Drum caught up with some industry figures to find out their reaction to the report.
To think just a year ago we were talking of another tough year ahead with cash-strapped consumers indicative of a gloomy outlook – how quickly things can change.
To preach caution may be slightly deflating at a time when there’s so much cause for optimism, but even as confidence peaks at a rate in which hasn’t previously been measured, it’s vital that marketers remain focused on keeping pace with consumers, using data-driven insight to find the best and most effective ways to target and reach consumers amongst a sea of noise.
With technology becoming so ubiquitous, it’s little surprise that digital channels are thriving. With smartphone ubiquity and further convergence towards those devices, consumers are expecting relevancy, engaging content and value for money in real-time. It represents a brave leap for brands, but those who can respond to these demands and act quickest, delivering that relevant, timely engagement will be the ones who are justly rewarded.
Fantastic though it may be to breathe a sigh of relief as the purse strings loosen, we in the industry must be careful not to make effusive statements free from consideration of the society in which we operate.
While the Treasury reports positive growth and consumer confidence grows – no doubt a significant contributor to the uplift – the cost of living in Britain is rising faster than anywhere in Europe. Indeed, figures from the ONS show that retail spend rose twice as fast as wages (falling to their lowest level in real terms for a decade) in September, prompting fears of unsustainable growth.
With our increased budgets, now comes the opportunity (and, I believe, the obligation) to understand exactly who our audience is and what they need, and then to find ways to connect our clients’ brands to people’s lives in useful and constructive ways: ways that add value and meaning.
Times are still tough and, for many, getting tougher. Brands that see their target audience as flesh and blood rather than a figure on the bottom line are the ones that we can truly find it in our hearts to love.
In line with other recent upbeat business and consumer surveys, this is another remarkably encouraging report that reflects the wider industry’s confidence in both the British economy and their own business prospects.
Although the report is positive – and this is broadly replicated at Total Media, with income up close to 16 per cent and new business up 120 per cent on the previous year – growth seems to be originating from certain sectors, with many other sectors still suffering the cold from the recession.
For example many of our arts clients are still struggling with restrictions in the Arts Council funding, and as a result, we are seeing reduced ad spends in traditional channels, whereas sectors which rely on consumer confidence, like the travel industry, are growing. Also, clients who have embraced the data and new digital practices, with all their associated real-time benefits, are regaining a new-found sense of confidence. We expect this short term growth to promote further investment in Q4 and beyond.
Like consumers, who are faced with quite an overwhelming choice of brands, products and experiences, marketers too are now faced with an overwhelming choice of media. As budgets rise, so does the pressure on brands to spend that money effectively.
As we uncover new consumer archetypes and insights with each passing week, we need to use the full range of tools available to us, fusing data analytics, strategic planning and predictive modelling to map out the purchase decision journey.
Some would still claim that data and creativity make for curious bedfellows, but more than ever it is crucial to deliver focused creativity, higher engagement and true cut-through, particularly considering the constantly shifting consumer mindset and ever-evolving consumption habits.
The increase in confidence is a clear response to the latest positive growth within the economy and hopefully signals a real and sustainable recovery. However, the clear trend from today’s report is that much of the increase can be attributed to digital activity, and at some cost to traditional direct marketing.
Cause for celebration as it may be, increase in digital spend is still a comparatively cautious one, founded in accountability and performance metrics rather than true worth. Spend in direct marketing – specifically in data - will need to be sustained as businesses realise that effectiveness is not equivalent to ability to measure performance.
It will take a more dedicated shift in mindset for marketers to start using insight to help drive what they do, rather than just to evaluate what they have done. It is only then that confidence and spend will return across all channels, not just those from which ROI is easily attainable.
The upward trend for online work isn't surprising. Being anything short of the best online is likely to have a detrimental effect on commercial value. For example, the ever increasing diversity of devices and screen sizes, including new curved screens and myriad other technological advancements, along with the increasing number of case studies showing significant revenue increases from responsive websites, means the case for responsive design is increasingly hard to ignore.
That's not to say media outside of digital are unimportant, more a reflection on the numerous ways in which we can engage with consumers and the ability to deliver rich online experiences. Indeed, it's more important than ever that we continue to look for ways to deliver seamless and integrated communications as the digital landscape continues to fragment channels.
Measuring ROI closely and feeding that back into planning is incredibly important, but must be done within the context of channels working together properly and optimising your communications mix at a customer level. The most pleasing aspect of the report is that there is stated increased confidence in firms' financial prospects, which we're seeing in our clients' attitudes too. Cautious optimism appears still to be the watch phrase but with good reason to believe this will continue to improve.
The latest Bellwether on the whole certainly provides further cause for optimism and if we’re looking at the bigger economic picture then, yes, this is cause for some celebration. Last quarter it was the largest margin in six years, now we’re looking at the biggest ever, so it is positive to see the industry is really finding some momentum now as the UK slowly lurches out of the recession.
However, digging slightly deeper into the numbers and there’s a clear divide in regards to where that money is being spent; internet and new media skewing those figures somewhat whilst again events, PR and direct all post further decline.
It’s more than acceptable with new channels opening up to marketers that spend will become more thinly spread. But particularly at a time where every fourth word coming out of a marketer’s mouth seems to be ‘omni-channel’, brands need to be very careful in not putting all their eggs in one basket.
With the economy recovering, no doubt this upcoming Christmas will provide one of the healthiest festive periods for brands in years. But with so much competition, those who effectively invest across a number of touchpoints where appropriate - TV, direct, online, social, experiential – to deliver true through the line marketing will be those that prosper most heading into 2014.
The 11.7 per cent growth in digital marketing spend revealed by today’s IPA Bellwether report is further evidence that marketers' digital strategies and efforts are paying dividends. Marketers are shifting spend and investing in the capabilities that will allow them to reach existing and potential customers at every phase of the buying process – from early stage brand awareness to post-acquisition up-sell opportunities. The coupling of hyper targeting with other marketing trends such as content marketing, native advertising and vertical social networks is opening up new ways for marketers to reach their audience with the right message, at the right time, on the right platform/device, at the right cost."
More than 2,300 technology brands use Spiceworks to reach B2B IT buyers across every phase of the purchase journey, and vertical networks like Spiceworks are emerging across every industry – from healthcare and accounting to education and engineering. The trend is giving marketers a unique opportunity to reach their customers on the network where they're connecting with one another to do their jobs. This shift, from mass-market social networks to more tailored vertical networks, is taking hold and is becoming central to how marketers spend their budgets and reach their customers.
It’s extremely encouraging to see the latest Bellwether report build on last quarter’s, which showed the largest margin in six years – something that filled the industry with a much needed boost. This quarter we’ve built on that momentum and now we’re seeing marketing spend is up at the strongest rate ever recorded. Further proof that the UK is slowly but surely coming out of recession. Furthermore, it shows client confidence is continuing to grow.
Unsurprisingly, the internet and new media is again where the majority of spend is going. It’s inevitable for marketers to invest more in digital media and content in the early days, especially as smartphone, tablet and social usage is growing substantially on a global level. The trend will only continue as connected technology develops and continues to change the way we interact with the world around us. But, what we do need to remember is these developments have changed the traditional agency model. A change we all need to keep front of mind, should we wish to remain successful.
By this, I mean agencies can no longer work on a single offering or in silos – it’s all about the integrated approach – offering clients activity on all relevant channels delivered in a seamless way. Clients are relying on agencies, as marketing teams shrink, so we need to take on this additional responsibility and offer solutions across multiple channels. As marketing budgets increase, clients will want to invest in more touch points all at once. It’s those agencies that can accommodate this need that will prosper.
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