Adland Has Never Had It So Good -- Enjoy It While It Lasts

The figures are in, and the truth is that customers have never had it so good. And that means the same applies to brands too. You can read about all the + scores in the latest GfK research in Marketing Week today, but the headline is that we've had a year of positive consumer sentiment for the whole of 2015 -- the first time consumers have remained positive across an entire year. So confidence is at record highs and it's staying there. 

The one fly in the ointment isn't a fly at all. The fact that people are not expecting to make a big purchase in December is because they probably made it in the Black Friday sales at the end of November.

Here is the real potential fly in the ointment, however. I was talking with some financiers the other day and the big question on everyone's lips is what happens when interest rates go up. As we all know, economic growth is being driven by consumer spending because consumers are feeling pretty good about things right now. Interest rates are so low that credit is far more affordable at the same time that mortgage payments are down. Inflation is hovering close to zero, oil prices are at their lowest for several years and the country currently employs more people than it ever has.

In other words, the economy isn't being driven by some amazing rise in production from a better-trained and equipped workforce and it's not a spurt in exports that is driving us forward. It's the simple fact that people are doing well, bills are down, credit is cheap and it's not worth saving any money that are leading to confidence, which people are readily turning in to spending.

So the real question all financiers are asking is not so much what happens "if," but what happens "when" interest rates go up. The Fed has already raised borrowing rates, and it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that by around Easter -- conservative estimates suggest -- the Bank of England will follow suit. All of a sudden, things will appear a bit more like they used to before credit became so crazily cheap. Add in a likely rise in oil prices and after a couple or more interest rate hikes, and Christmas 2016 will have more of a feel of Christmases of old rather than the last couple of festive seasons where the country has been out of recession and enjoying high employment rates with an interest rate fixed for years at just half a percentage point.

So there's just a sneaking suspicion in London among the people who look after the money that -- in the words of a former Prime Minister -- we've never had it so good. Trouble is, their warning is we should enjoy it while we can, because next Christmas is going to be markedly different from this.

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