The coverage of the IPA Bellwether figures in Marketing Week is well worth a look today because they show an industry moving forward rather more cautiously than before.
In fact, there's no way to sugar coat this. Traditional advertising is down and online advertising is up -- but by the smallest margin in five years.
The figures work by comparing how many companies are increasing budget in a particular segments and how many are not. The difference provides an index of growth or decline -- and at an 8% differential for internet advertising, that's the slowest growth seen for several years.
If you want a more alarming figure, mobile marketing -- the new kid on the block -- is rated stagnant at 0%, as is PR. Search -- both paid and SEO -- is growing, but at a slower rate than before.
As for tv, radio and cinema, they are in decline for only the second time in five years, with just over 2% more of marketers saying they are cutting budget compared to those pumping in more resources. Direct marketing is down by the widest margin -- it suffered a -5% decline in the first quarter of the year.
So what gives?
It's probably fair to say there are still economic concerns for the UK as Brexit looms. According to The Times today, the country is now in the lower half of a league table of growth economies -- behind the US, Germany and France, as well as the EU average.
I would also suggest that GDPR could be at play here. It's the last full quarter that companies have to prepare for the new set of regulations, and there could well be an argument that budget is being diverted from campaigns to make each company compliant. It may seem rather ironic that online budgets have grown while traditional channels have faltered, but that shows where the balance of power is now.
The real question here is, will the budget come back? Will some companies that are opting for consent -- for which the bar is raised under GDPR -- find that lists have shrunk and building them up again is too costly? Will they still have budget left after compliance has been achieved?
If I were to nail my colours to the mast, I'd say this is a blip caused by budget being diverted to GDPR compliance -- and ironically, the channels most affected are not online but tv, radio and cinema. It's not fair, but marketers probably find it easier to cut traditional channels in favour of digital.
Spending levels will likely see a return to normalcy, but the inflow of cash will possibly remain cautious. The economy is stuttering along, but at least there is the good news that wage increases are now above inflation.
More of a blip than a worrisome trend -- but it's definitely one to keep an eye on post-GDPR implementation.