NEWS17 July 2019

UK marketers uncertain about future

Brexit Media News UK

UK – Marketing budgets have stalled in the second quarter of 2019 as brands grapple with increasing political and economic uncertainty stemming from Brexit, according to the latest Bellwether report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

Gloomy outlook_crop

The quarterly study found no overall growth in marketing budgets in the second quarter, despite growth at the start of the year.

The net balance fell from +8.7% to 0.0%, the same as it was in the last quarter of 2018. Of the marketers surveyed for the report, 20% reported greater marketing expenditure, offset by the same proportion cutting spend, while 60% reported no change to budgets since the first quarter.

While the net balance of executives reporting lower market research budgets increased from -4.2% to -2.9%, spend on market research remains in negative territory, continuing a trend that began in late 2015. Almost 14% of marketers surveyed pointed to lower research spend, with 11% reporting increased budgets.

Commenting on the findings, David Fletcher, chief data officer, Wavemaker UK said: "Advertisers are living in a challenging environment of ‘now and not yet’ – toughing out the existing and changing political and economic uncertainties while having an eye towards an unformed post-Brexit future.

"Under such circumstances, the continuing decline in forecast investment in market research is understandable: it’s just too difficult to articulate clearly enough what the question is. However it should also be a wake-up call for market research practitioners to rethink approaches to enable stronger and more directional support to businesses in times of uncertainty."

In other areas, main media advertising saw a boost, with a net balance of +5.6% of marketers reporting greater spend. Internet-based advertising, including search/SEO, and events marketing also grew in the second quarter.

According to the panel members surveyed for the report, the biggest factors challenging businesses – creating hesitancy among clients and delaying decision-making – are growing economic uncertainty, continued ambiguity over the outcome of Brexit, and the risk factor of a change in political leadership.

Marketers are also concerned about consumer confidence, the threat of spillover effects from global trade disputes and weaker growth within key export destinations, the report found.

In addition to marketing spend flatlining, panel members were negative about the outlook for both their own companies and the wider industry.  

Around a third ( 34%) of marketers said they were pessimistic about finances in the industry generally, with 8% reporting optimism. When it came to optimism over their own companies’ financial prospects, the net balance fell to -9.8% from -2.7% in the first quarter – the most negative outlook in over seven years.

Paul Bainsfair, IPA director general, said: "Between Boris, Jeremy and Brexit, coupled with a dip in consumer confidence, it is perhaps no wonder that this quarter’s Bellwether shows zero growth to overall UK marketing budgets. Until a clearer political and economic path is outlined, the vast majority of companies are in stasis. It is reassuring to see, however, that some companies are revising up their investment in main media advertising; this is where they will build the longer term growth of their brands, which is crucial to weathering these tougher times."

The Bellwether Report is researched and published by IHS Markit on behalf of the IPA. Data is drawn from a panel of around 300 UK
marketing professionals, drawn primarily from the country’s top 1,000 companies.