IPA Bellwether Q4 2013: Industry reaction

16 Jan 2014  |  David Pidgeon 
IPA Bellwether Q4 2013: Industry reaction

The Q4 2013 IPA Bellwether Report, published on Thursday, reveals a strong upwards revision to marketing budgets, marking the fifth quarter of consecutive growth and the second-highest rate of growth in the survey's history.

The latest report also indicates that companies are "loosening their purse strings" as worries about the wider UK economy subside.

Here, Newsline presents industry reaction and analysis to the findings, with opinion from MEC UK, Jaywing, Gekko and WAA.

Martin Boddy, CEO, Jaywing

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The growth, albeit modest, in direct marketing demonstrates steps toward broader omnichannel and integrated marketing. Direct marketing undoubtedly has its place in the connected world, as clients demand measurable activity to sit alongside the continued growth in similarly measurable digital channels.

The key focus for 2014 for marketers will be to understand where activity is working and how connected activities work together, particularly as digital continues to fragment. It's no small feat but Big Data and, more importantly, solid analysis and data science will allow marketers to make those budgets work as hard as possible.

Indeed, the decrease in market research may be due to marketers using more of their data to drive decisions. Experiential and brand led marketing, working together with digital and direct, will deliver better brand experiences and measurable customer experience.

Tom George, chairman, MEC UK / chairman, IPA Media Futures Group

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From the media industry's point of view, the latest Bellwether findings are welcome news and chime with optimistic forecasts elsewhere in the market.

After the varying fortunes of the main retailers at Christmas, no one can doubt the critical importance of the Internet to sales - and it's understandable in this context that the sharpest improvement should have taken place in this sector, albeit to a lesser degree than in the previous quarter.

Having said this, the main ad budgets remain steady - and while a 3.3% increase in ad spending in real terms in 2014 might not seem dramatic, this comes on the back of a forecast growth of 4.5% in 2013 which marks the greatest recovery of marketing budgets since 2008. This is consistent with our GroupM forecasts and will mark a turn-around that most of us could only have dreamed of just a few years ago.

Of course, there are still plenty of concerns regarding the economy - not least the dangers of an overheated domestic housing sector and uncertainties over the Eurozone - but these aside, it's excellent once again to be looking at a market where business is confident of growth and appears prepared to invest in marketing and media to achieve this.

Daniel Todaro, MD, Gekko

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This is another remarkably encouraging report that highlights wider industry confidence in the British economy and its future prospects. Although the report is broadly positive, there is a clear split in where marketers' money is going.

Once again, digital spending takes the lead as more and more people consume through smartphones and tablets, while sales promotion is also up, which suggests that attracting shoppers through neat tactics in-store and through mobile is paying off.

However, with marketing budgets on the up there will be increasing pressure on brands to deliver. As the consumer landscape broadens, with more and more comprehensive pictures being built up through the combination of data analytics, strategic thinking and predictive modelling, new consumer profiles are coming to the fore.

Marketers need to be aware of these in order to operate effectively. With increased budgets there is more opportunity to build long lasting relationships with consumers. Brands just need to be aware of increased expectations.

Tim Beaver, digital planner, WAA

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The IPA's Bellwether report provides a much more positive outlook for marketers; at last forecasting the increase in spend that we have been waiting for since business confidence slowly started returning at the beginning of last year.

There is, however, some divergence across the marketing spend categories - it's probably no surprise that digital marketing is the main beneficiary of the upward revision - with search, content and mobile marketing being cited prominently by survey respondents.

However, what does strike me as something of a paradox is the most negative fall in marketing spend occurring in PR (falling from -1.7% in Q3 to -2.8% at the end of 2013) at a time when PR and search, as disciplines, are so obviously intertwined.

Perhaps it's the fact that SEO and PR are still being offered as separate services, and that many PR agencies 'just do PR'. What is clear is that, as Google continues to refine its ranking algorithm to weed out spam results and provide users with the most relevant results to their search queries, SEO and PR have had to join forces as a holistic marketing discipline.

Both disciplines are very much focused on finding the angles, producing great content that is linkable and shareable and then optimising for social channels and mobile devices.

In which case this divergence could be a clear sign that PR agencies without an SEO offering, certainly without an awareness of SEO, are going to get left behind.

Renaud Clarke, MD, Atelier Studios

Renaud Clarke

This report is certainly a very encouraging outlook from the IPA, with an upward trend in both confidence and marketing budget overall.

It's interesting to see a continued appreciation of the importance of internet-related spend, however I think that this category now covers such a vast array of tools and techniques that there will be challenges for marketers in ensuring that this budget is spent wisely and in the right areas, rather than spread thinly across all aspects of digital.

There are more digital channels, tools and techniques available to marketers than ever before, as well as increasing pressure to sometimes jump on the latest bandwagon. Therefore making sure the most relevant techniques are applied for your target audience will be key. Content is king, but only if it's the right content, with the right message based on an in-depth understanding of your customers.

Although not explicitly stated within the report, data and insight will have a massive role to play in 2014, driving customer understanding and targeting, but also shaping messaging, tone, timeliness and relevance on online activity. The right mix of data and digital will reap great benefits for marketers in 2014 from a tactical, but also increasingly from a strategic perspective. Exciting times ahead.

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