Commentary

Marketing Enjoys A Boris Bounce As Confidence Returns

Do not adjust your screen. Marketers have been asked how they rate their confidence going forward, based on whether or not they expect budgets to increase, and the answer may be surprising.

This is despite news of the worst year on the high street since records began a quarter of a century ago, despite the looming threat or opportunity of Brexit at the end of the month and despite consumer confidence consistently failing to show an uptick.

The results are in -- and marketers are actually more confident than they have been at any time during the past two years.

The IPA Bellwether Report for Q4 of 2019 moved from negative territory -- where marketers are expected to spend less -- to a positive score of +4, where marketers are expecting to increase spending.

That figure comes from the balance of 23% of those surveyed expected budgets to go up and 19% expecting cuts. The third quarter had shown a negative growth figure -- meaning more expected cuts than increased spending -- for the first time in seven years.

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It is hard, then, not to conclude there has been what can only be described as a "bounce." It can be an overused word, particularly around politics, but the headline would have to suggest a bounce is happening.

Or is it? Look a little further into the figures, as Mobile Marketing has done, and it becomes clear that digital marketing is the sector that is pushing up the overall score. Investment in direct marketing, PR, sales promotions and events are all expected to go down, while internet marketing is set to skyrocket.

At the same time, there is cause for optimism that this could be a proper bounce when one looks at expectations for 2020/21 budgets, which has a +15% positive outlook compared to a forecast of 3.4%. 

Digital marketing is still going to be the main channel accounting for this positivity and events are also due to be part of the uptick, while direct marketing and PR are set to tread water.

As ever with figures, conclusions are open to conjecture. It's clear that digital marketing remains the channel that is fuelling growth for the sector, and this is set to continue. It's also clear that marketers are expecting better budgets for 2020 heading into 2021. 

What remains to be seen is whether this happens.

Is the Boris bounce for real? Does it extend beyond digital marketing that one would expect, regardless of the state of the economy and Britain's trading relationship with Europe?

Or is the bounce just a case of digital covering up reductions elsewhere that will continue unchecked into the new financial year? Will the picture look rosier than it is because the cash cow of digital marketing continues to cover the cracks in the ceiling?

We'll have to see what happens with future figures, but for now, we can definitely say that the upcoming split from the EU and a terrible year on the high street has not come at the cost of marketers' confidence.

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