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Brexit

UK marketing spend stagnates as Brexit takes its toll

A six-year run of continuous overall UK marketing budget growth came to an end in Q4 2018, with a net balance of +0.0% of marketing executives signalling no change in budgets during the fourth quarter.

That’s according to the latest IPA Bellwether Report, which says that while some marketers reported growth (+16%), this was completely offset by others observing spending cuts (-16%).

In addition, roughly two-thirds of panel members reported no revision to their total marketing budgets. Evidence from some marketers highlighted some optimism for the coming year, with new product launches, expansion into overseas markets, digital transformation and technological development all expected to bring growth opportunities.

However, political and economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing Brexit negotiation process has dampened both business and consumer confidence, driving belt-tightening and restricting resources available to marketing executives.

The shift towards digital modes of advertising remained apparent during Q4, although growth moderated noticeably, as signalled by the net balance for internet falling to +2.1%, from +13.6% in the third quarter (within internet, search/SEO dropped from +5.8% in Q3 to -3.9% marking the first cut since Q2 2009; mobile advertising budgets were also revised down to -2.4% from +1.9% in Q3).

However, it was budgets for sales promotions that marketing executives enjoyed the greatest upward revisions for, with the net balance increasing to +3.8% from +0.6% in Q3. Events budgets also saw a slight increase (net balance of +2.6% from -1.1%), however panellists observed cuts to the remaining categories monitored by the Bellwether survey.

The first downward revision for two quarters was seen for main media advertising, which includes large-scale campaigns on TV and in newspapers. The net balance fell to -6.5% from +4.8%. Direct marketing (-5.6% from -7.4%), market research (-4.7% from – 3.7%), and PR budgets (-4.1% from +4.2%) were also areas of marketing that companies experienced a squeeze on spending.

Looking towards the 2019/20 financial year, preliminary data from the Bellwether panel indicated a near-neutral stance on overall marketing spend for the coming budget period. The proportion of marketers anticipating increased marketing expenditure (27%) was only marginally higher than that for those predicting cuts (26%), yielding a net balance of just +0.8%.

However, drilling down into the individual budget plans for each Bellwether category revealed a fairly negative outlook. A number of marketers expressed concern towards the adverse impact of Brexit-driven economic and political uncertainty on both consumer and business confidence. In some cases, there was evidence that the potential for a more challenging corporate environment was set to restrict financial resources available to marketing executives.

Paul Bainsfair, Director General at the IPA, said: “In uncertain political and economic times such as these, the understandable reaction for some advertisers is to lose confidence in brand building advertising and to think short term even to the point of heavily discounting their products and services. We’ve seen this on and offline in the run up to Christmas – and now see the impact in black and white in this latest Bellwether Report. We know from the research we have done into what builds and what destroys brands – and it is proven – that too much short-term sales promotion activity destroys brand value in the long term. Marketers need to weather this turbulent period and think ahead. Now is the time to be bold, to keep up their share of voice and, if they can, increase it to grow their share of market. Businesses that rely on the strength of their brands need to follow the general 60:40 (brand building vs activation spend) rule of thumb.”

Joe Hayes, Economist at IHS Markit and author of the Bellwether Report, said: “The slowdown in marketing budget growth seen in recent quarters culminated in Q4, as the six-year bullrun came to an end. Company-wide indecisiveness restricted the allocation of resources to marketers, as the wait-and-see approach to how the Brexit process will transpire appears to be the current strategy in place for many UK businesses. “The neutral stance on marketing budgets came in tandem with a first pessimistic outlook by businesses towards their own companies’ financial prospects for the first time since 2012, suggesting that top-level belt-tightening and plans to protect margins has seen marketing executives be given less discretion. Indeed, provisional data for budgets for the coming 2019/20 financial year indicate that downbeat stance seems likely to persist.”

James Goddard, Chief Executive, JJ Marketing, said: “This early part of 2019 is inevitably a time when uncertainty reigns but it’s no good standing still and weeping into your spreadsheets. For one thing, there remain areas of optimism, including digital transformation and the opportunities provided by technology. And, it’s now more important than ever for agencies to be able to react quickly to change. In the coming 12 months, expecting the unexpected will be crucial. Therefore, we need to focus on being flexible and innovative. Add strategy, creativity and accountability on top and taking advantage of a changing landscape will be more achievable than you might expect.”

Tom George, CEO, GroupM and Chair of the IPA Media Futures Group, said: “By the time the latest Bellwether report is published, we will know the outcome of parliament’s vote on the government’s Brexit proposal. Whether this provides any further clarity on a resolution is highly doubtful however. What is clear is that uncertainty is not the friend of economic optimism and the latest Bellwether sentiment reflects this.

“Advertising is also not immune to uncertainty and this is highlighted by a net balance of -6.5% for main media (a scale of decline not seen since 2009) and a softening in the positive sentiment for internet, search & mobile of +2.1%. The good news for the sector is that all commentators still report growth in ad expenditure for 2019 on the back of 6% growth in 2018 – our own GroupM forecasts predicts growth to 4.6% for 2019. Of course, what plays out over the course of the next few months may supress this relative optimism. To continue on a ‘glass half full’ theme, even the most pessimistic estimates I’ve seen for the impact of a no-deal Brexit scenario, don’t approach anywhere near the levels of decline for we witnessed in 2009. Watch this space.’’

Patrick Reid, CEO EMEA, Imagination, said: “As the expectation for brands to create more imaginative experiences grows, the current climate highlights the need for clients to work with a creative partner who can deliver effective, efficient and agile creative solutions. With exciting developments in technology, collaborative ways of working and more rigorous measurement, you can produce powerful experiences which deliver meaningful results despite the constantly evolving landscape.”

Pete Robins, Managing Partner, Agenda21 and Chair of the IPA Digital Media Group, said: “For once in a very long time, overall market pressures have even dented the growth rate of internet reacted spends. However, also worth noting that the prominence of businesses looking to continue or advance their digital transformation, could mean that once these initiatives are sufficiently progressed that growth in connected media channels will be at the forefront of their plans once the uncertainty in the market has acerbated.”

James Pais, IPA Scotland Chair and Creative Services Director at Frame, said: “Last year I commented that the Q4 Bellwether report would make for some interesting reading. I was trying to be optimistic here.

“Alas the uncertainty of Brexit has generated grave concerns and a lack of confidence which as a result meant that the findings in this Bellwether report have a rather pessimistic and downbeat outlook. The predicted reaction for advertisers to reduce their adspend in the later part of 2018 is evident in this report and to misquote D:Ream, things don’t look like they’re going to get better. There is a rather negative outlook to budgeting in 2019/20 with still further concern towards the adverse impact of Brexit on the economy and the effect it will have on both consumer and business confidence.

“So again, the 2019 Q1 Bellwether report will make for some interesting reading, by then hopefully we will have some clarity as to our new relations with the EU. As an optimist I want to be encouraged by the Office for Budget Responsibility projection of a bounceback in business investment, and the Bellwether prediction of an upward revision to adspend forecast for 2019, but I guess we will see in a few months, right?”

Print industry ‘yet to feel effects of Brexit’

Research from Close Brothers has revealed the supply chain concerns UK SMEs from multiple sectors have regarding Brexit, including the Print sector.

The asset finance specialist polled 900 businesses – while 56% say they have felt no impact on levels of business from the UK’s decision to leave the EU, a further 20% said it was too early to tell; only 24% had felt any kind of effect.

In the Print sector, Close Brothers says the results closely reflected those of the UK as a whole, which means it’s clear that the majority of Print businesses are yet to feel any real and tangible effect from Brexit.

In terms of spending decisions, more than three quarters (76%) of businesses have not delayed spending or investment decisions because of the EU Referendum.

Roger Aust, Managing Director of Close Brothers Asset Finance Print division, said: “Once again, Print businesses reflected exactly the national picture, but what is interesting to note is that 88% of smaller firms – those with a turnover of between £250k to £500k – were the least liable to allow the EU referendum stop them from pushing their business forward and investing.

“Close Brothers has a history of lending through all economic cycles, and experience tells us that these organisations aren’t sitting on large reserves of cash, meaning that in order to maintain business levels they typically don’t have a choice but to spend and invest to ensure a sustainable flow of cash.

“Firms don’t become unviable overnight; we see it as our responsibility to do what we can to ensure our customers, who are in the main SMEs, remain in business and can build towards a profitable future.

“One alternative to consider is restructuring your business finances to make any rise in costs easier to deal with. A great way to do this is through asset finance, which is where our team of experts at Close Brothers Asset Finance can help.

“Print is a significant player in the UK economy but there are ways to mitigate the risks and still have a productive and successful business.”

UK marketers feel added Brexit pressure

A study by media intelligence agency Meltwater has revealed that nearly three quarters of UK marketers feel they are under additional pressure since the Brexit vote.

Over 250 senior-level marketers were polled, with 72% saying that they now felt they were under additional pressure to gauge external factors which could potentially harm their business post Brexit.

56% said that they felt the extra pressure came from general uncertainty, 52% said budget restraints and 36% cited the prospect of planning campaigns in other markets.

Half of those polled admitted that “things sometimes get missed” and admitted that they took an ad-hoc approach to measurement.

39% admitted that they were unsure which media and sentiment measurement tools/solutions would be best for their business, as the choice was overwhelming.

Only 27% of those marketers polled said that they had absolute faith in their current methods of measuring external insight.

Gregg Hollister, area director at Meltwater, said: “At a time when the political climate is so uncertain, marketers clearly feel more under pressure than ever to keep a tight handle on any external factors which could impact their business.

“At any given time, developments in the news agenda or across social media, could present threats or opportunities to the marketing community, so it’s paramount they remain consistently immersed in their macro environment, and particularly their competitive landscape.”

www.meltwater.com

Industry Spotlight: How can marketers ensure that their brand is being displayed correctly on the high street?

Luca Pagano, CEO of BeMyEye, discusses the need for marketers to find a cost-effective means of ensuring that retailers in brick and mortar stores are displaying their brand correctly.

In the digital age, it’s easy to forget that marketers face challenges offline, as well as online. When faced with decreasing budgets and difficulties justifying ROI to the c-suite, a common problem is proving that offline marketing materials are achieving what is intended. Marketers do not have the same visibility afforded to them when their brand appears in a physical store as they do in online environments. Ultimately, as soon as marketing materials leave the marketers hands, they go into a blind spot.

With the uncertainty of Brexit’s impact and falling store prices, marketers will have to work harder than ever to ensure consistent revenue streams and safeguard operational efficiency. The majority of sales for brands and retailers still take place offline and therefore marketers who supply brand products and materials to physical stores must be confident that their brand is being presented to consumers correctly.

 

Facing the challenge head on

The biggest challenge in ensuring this is the spread of location. Marketers cannot easily monitor how their products and marketing materials are being presented in thousands of physical stores. Normally, marketers would receive a sample snapshot of data providing an overview of their brands presence across a handful of stores, but how can marketers ensure that this is consistent everywhere to measure accurate compliance of promotional activation and ultimately ROI?

To achieve a census view, the brand needs to ‘see’ each individual store. However, up until now this has been a costly, lengthy and improbable task for sales teams to complete. Brands need the ability to check thousands of retailers for in-stock presence of their products, effective activation of marketing collateral and POP and compliance of price quickly and cost-effectively.

 

The role of crowdsourcing to ensure brand consistency

Mobile crowdsourcing and the gig economy have grown at rapid speeds in recent years and businesses are beginning to tap into its incredible power. Marketers can utilise hundreds of thousands of eyes on the ground who are ready to deliver detailed actionable insights about their brand. The crowd can deliver images of promotional activity, pricing and competitor positioning from any location, all in real time.

BeMyEye’s recent report ‘Eyeing up the cost of UK groceries’ is an example of this at work, revealing price differences for a basket of popular groceries across hundreds of retailers in the UK, collected over just 4 days. The crowd uncovered granular level details of branded goods, including that cans of coke are less likely to be stocked in two of the four big supermarkets than avocados, which highlights changes in distribution for Coca Cola in the UK.

The report also discovered interesting insights for marketers when looking at convenience shopping, which is a trend that could unseat leading retailers as consumers move towards ‘little and often’ shopping. For example, results from the report showcase that whilst supermarkets like Tesco remain the most cost-effective outlet for grocery basics like milk, eggs and bread, some other goods, such as avocados, can often be found for lower prices in off-licences.

 

Brands are already benefiting from the crowd

The data from the grocery report highlights that it is possible to gather actionable retail intelligence at scale, cost-effectively and in real-time, however utilising the crowd doesn’t just apply to the grocery sector, the data can be applied to any brand or retailer operating on the high street.

For example, the world’s largest cruise line company, MSC Cruises, uses BeMyEye’s crowd of eyes to analyse the presence of their marketing materials in its travel agency partners. The results amounted to a complete overhaul in the brand’s marketing strategy as 30 per cent of the travel agent partners weren’t displaying the materials correctly.

During uncertain times, marketers need an honest representation of how their marketing materials, promotional offers, and products are being presented and they can turn to mobile crowdsourcing to find this stability. A recent report from McKinsey showed the importance of insights for brands, stating that brands such as Phillips and TRESemmé are all driving growth by meeting consumer needs better than their competitors are. Brands who invest wisely in scaled data, analytics and real-time insights will often achieve up to 10 per cent sales increase, up to 5 per cent higher return on sales and a margin uplift of 1 to 2 per cent – something the c-suite cannot argue with when allocating marketing budgets.

Crowdsourcing and the gig economy have quickly become the fastest, most feasible, accurate and valuable means for marketers to gather granular insights about their products, pricing and promotional activity across every single offline touchpoints. Combating this blind spot will be fundamental for marketers to maximise their brand’s revenue streams in the uncertain post-Brexit retail landscape.

 

Luca is CEO of BeMyEye, Europe’s leader of mobile crowdsourcing for real world data gathering. Prior to BeMyEye, Luca was co-founder and CEO of Glamoo, Italy’s third largest player in the digital couponing space, acquired by Seat Pagine Gialle in 2014.

Prior to joining Glamoo, Luca was VP of Publishing EMEA at EA Mobile, where he spearheaded the growth of iconic brands like Fifa, Tetris and Need for Speed into the dominant titles of the App Store; from 2001 to 2009 Luca was Managing Director UK & International at Buongiorno, a global leader in mobile Value Added Services (VAS).