OPINION25 March 2015

#Budget2015 – what next for marketing services & MR?


Sinead Hasson, managing director of Hasson Associates, gives her assessment of where the industry needs to focus in light of the recent budget.

Last week, the Chancellor stood among the baying MPs and delivered his budget for 2015. With the election looming, his vision may last two months or a year, but what does it mean for marketing services and the market research (MR) industry?

Supporting creativity

At a high level, marketing services has missed out again. His mission to further ‘support creative industries’ grabbed my interest, before dashing my hopes with the detail. Funding will, again, focus on sectors like film and TV. But does marketing services need Mr Osborne’s help?

In short, yes. With the advent of digital and big data, the workforce has evolved, and skills are in short supply. On top of this, London prices keep talent and skills away, and are squeezing agency margins. But what can be done? Could the answer lie north of Watford Gap?

It’s great up north

There’s plenty of talent outside of London. And now the Chancellor is waking up and trying to establish the north as an economic power house. The logic is sound; Yorkshire has “created more jobs than France” in recent years. But does his plan have any substance and how could it help MR?

With an historical focus on the south, economic opportunities have been missed, and talent has been left out in the cold. Migration north will bring economic benefits both locally and nationally, and it’s great for businesses as talent pools are opened up and lower overheads mean greater profits. With MR well established in Leeds, the industry is positioned to take advantage of this priority shift.

What does MR need?

If MR is to bridge the north-south divide, it needs the infrastructure and tools to succeed. High speed internet and transport must be top of this list as data and people need to move around efficiently. The details in the budget were sparse, but we have been promised “a comprehensive transport strategy for the north” and “ultrafast broadband to nearly all homes in the country”. Good for business and good for freelancers.

Most importantly, though, we need the skills. There are simply not enough people entering the job market that have the mathematical, analytical and data science skills required for some of the most advanced roles MR. The cost of living in London can be a real deterrent for new grads, meaning that the MR industry could lose out.

Making it happen

The government needs to help creative industries bridge the gap between business and academia. The country is crying out for talent, and the education system is not delivering. We must do more to promote the sought-after skills needed at grass-roots level, just as Barclays has done with its primary-level coding lessons. If this can be done, more people will be in jobs, industries will thrive because they can get the right people, and skills will not be sourced from overseas by default.

It’s our responsibility

We need agencies to collaborate with bodies like MRS and CIM and define the problems they were facing, outline the threats and agree what they need to survive and grow. Without this, the government cannot respond.

My vision

Talent is the biggest road block; demand far outstrips supply in London so the north could hold the key. As for a first step? That’s where I need help from within the industry. We need to clearly define the problems.

Industry bodies can then bring the government to the table to outline the inhibitors to growth and what they can do to help. It might be tax breaks, specific skills to be added to the curriculum or colleges taking on a focus. It could be closer ties between schools, universities and industry. The need is there; there is an opportunity and the benefits could be significant.

Before the election on 7 May, it would be great to get thought leaders to provide input on this topic, so that we can reach consensus on how to proceed. Tweet me @SineadH and use the hashtag #FutureofMR to provide your input.