In My Opinion: Mark Gorman: Whiff of desperation in advertising reports?

NOW that the retailers have largely posted their tails of woe, some terminally, it’s the turn of the marketers and marketing observers to take centre stage.

In the last week, I’ve seen no fewer than three reports on the state of the advertising (and marketing) economy as we stumble into 2013. All attempt, however unconvincingly, to put a brave face on the next 12 months.

First up, on Tuesday arrived Nielsen’s quarterly Global AdView Pulse report for Q3 2012. It reports spending up 4.3 per cent over Q3 2011, outpacing the 2.7 per cent growth seen in the first half of 2012. Growth was attributed to the Olympics and the US Presidential election. Yesterday, this was updated with the news that global ad spending rose 3.3 per cent, year-on-year, from January to September 2012.

Next up, the AA/Warc Expenditure Report (which claims to be the UK’s most comprehensive measure of advertising spend by individual media) also looked at Q3 and reported UK spend up 0.8 per cent – another Olympic effect.

Surely this augurs well for Sotland in 2014 when we host the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and an independence vote. Although, right now, that seems an awful long way away.

In an Advertising Association media release, its chief executive, Tim Lefroy, is quoted, as saying: “Despite the shaky economic outlook, 2013 will see overall adspend return to levels last seen before the recession.”

The same release quotes Suzy Young, data editor at Warc, adding: “The mood amongst marketers is one of caution. Though expectations have been scaled back in line with the deteriorating economic outlook, we still predict growth of over three per cent in 2013.”

So far, so positive.

Perhaps of most relevance to Scottish marketers was last Thursday’s publication by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising of its influential Bellwether report, the quarterly survey of marketing expenditure. Unlike the reports mentioned above, it analyses forward intentions after having spoken to frontline marketing budget planners.

The way Bellwether measures confidence is by subtracting negative sentiment from positive sentiment to reach a balancing figure. The latest net balance is +1.1 per cent (ie slightly more marketers were confident in their future spend than pessimistic), up from the -5.5  per cent forecast in Q3 2012.

However, when asked about the financial prospects for their wider industry, marketing executives were the most pessimistic for a year due to the ongoing difficult economic environment. This matches a broad stagnation of GDP last year amid weak trends in investment and consumer spending.

Internet advertising budgets remained strong and the best performing of all categories in Q4 (net balance +5.6 per cent).

Optimism is in the air in all four reports but do you, like me, detect a whiff of desperation?

Mark Gorman is an independent marketing consultant operating under the banner, ‘Think Hard’. He has over 25 years of experience in advertising, design, direct marketing, PR, professional writing (especially blogging), business mentoring, digital marketing and research. He was co-founder of the former advertising agency, 1576.