Budgets Are Up -- Can We Thank A Delay To Brexit?

The talk in bars and at office water coolers has often returned to the Government kicking the proverbial can down the alley as repeated attempts to get a Brexit deal through parliament have led to successive delays in the date the country is scheduled to leave the EU.

One has to wonder this morning whether there is a part of this in marketing and advertising budgets taking a surprise turn for the better in the first quarter of the year, according to the latest IPA Bellwether figures. These showed that 9% more marketers are reporting an uptick in budget than those who are not. At the end of 2018, budgets were stagnating.

Marketing Week is attributing this unexpected increase to marketers protecting brands in the face of economic uncertainty. The IPA is suggesting that savvy marketers are realising they need to think long term and keep their products and services in front of the public so they remain front of mind.

The biggest increases in budget appear to have come for big-ticket items and for online campaigns. 

However, perhaps the most telling point here is that if marketers are putting budget in to protect their brands right now, they don't expect to continue. A dip is forecast for the end of the year heading into 2020, suggesting that budgets are mirroring the Brexit process that is providing so much economic uncertainty.

It's hard to back this up, but my hunch would be that the first quarter was a quarter during which it became increasingly unlikely the UK was going to keep to its scheduled departure date in March, and so confidence ticked upward a little. Confidence may not be too strong a word -- maybe relief is the correct one? This must have been given an almighty boost when MPs narrowly voted in favour of ruling out a no-deal Brexit. 

While businesses clearly want to see a way out of the Brexit mess, for it to be delivered through a free trade deal (perhaps ratified by a People's Vote) or for Article 50 to rescinded, it is clear that the first quarter saw the prospect of the UK falling off a proverbial cliff ahead of Easter was never going to happen. 

With no deal off the table, it became clearer during this period Brexit would either be soft or would not happen. That, for me, is probably a contributory reason why budgets showed an unexpected lift in the first quarter and why marketers are still suggesting they may go back down again later on in the year as our scheduled departure is pushed back to Halloween (what an apt date, you couldn't really make this stuff up).

So we will have to see what happens over the rest of the year, but one can imagine that the softer Brexit appears to be developing, or if it is even cancelled, the more likely it is that budget cuts are put off. 

Less cause for immediate fear can surely only keep budgets looking positive, but let's be clear -- this is still just a case of politicians kicking the Brexit can down the alley and, for now, marketers following suit. 

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