NEWS18 October 2019

Sharp drop in UK market research spend

Brexit Media News UK

UK – Market research budgets have shrunk in the last quarter against a backdrop of a dip in total marketing spend and economic uncertainty, according to the latest Bellwether Report published by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

Jar of money labelled 'budget'

Spend on market research, including qualitative and quantitative, brand tracking, and product development research, ranked bottom across all categories measured in the report during the third quarter of the year.

In the sharpest drop for market research spend in seven years, budgets dropped rapidly between the second and third quarter – the net balance of marketers expecting research spend to fall was -16.9%, down from -2.9% in Q2.

Just under 20% of the panellists reported cuts to research spend, while only 2.9% recorded growth, suggesting the extent of the drop in market research spend was unforeseen by marketers – only -4.0% expected funds to be cut during the 2019/2010 budget setting period.

The contraction in market research budgets came as total marketing spend was cut for the first time in seven years, with a net balance of -0.5% of executives reporting downwards revisions to their budgets during the third quarter; slightly down on the net balance of +0.0% for the previous three months.

While only a slight decline, the dip reflects marketers’ continued concern over economic and Brexit-related uncertainty, which some reported warranting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to budgeting, according to the Bellwether research. Almost two-thirds of the panel ( 64.1%) said there had been no change to their marketing budgets during Q3, 18.2% cut spend, while 17.7% increased their budgets.

The internet category was once again the top performer, with a net balance +11.1% seeing growth in digital marketing. Main media advertising budgets were placed on hold with a net balance of +0.0%, while spend on all other types of marketing was cut.

Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit and author of the Bellwether Report, said: "The latest Bellwether survey spells further disappointment for the UK marketing industry, which is suffering, just like the rest of the economy, as a result of spending delays, firms placing projects on hold and subdued business confidence.

"The UK economy has endured a tough year so far and firms have subsequently withdrawn discretionary spending to protect profit margins. As long as political and economic uncertainties remain at large, it will be surprising to see noteworthy boosts to marketing spending."