2021 was strongest ever year for marketing budgets globally – WARC

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WARC the global marketing intelligence body, has today released the annual review of its Global Marketing Index (GMI) over the 12 months of 2021. 

WARC’s GMI report provides a unique monthly indicator of the state of the global marketing industry, by tracking and analysing current conditions among 1,000+ marketers, including marketing budgets, trading conditions and staffing levels. 

The report is accompanied by additional analysis from WARC Data.

WARC GMI review of the 2021 report shows key elements:

1 Recovery maintained in 2021

Over the last 12 months, growth has been maintained across all key indices globally and regionally, signalling that despite the twists and turns of 2021, key successes such as vaccine programmes across the world have helped markets set themselves up to live with COVID rather than despite it.

The recovery is led by Digital, Mobile, TV and Out-of-Home, with the latter coming back into growth in 2021 following the lifting of restrictions.

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This is supported by further analysis from WARC Data, which show a 23.8% resurgence in marketing budgets across channels in 2021, valued at $771bn, with digital and mobile media up (41.9%), OTT video (41.6%) and search (39.4%). TV is up by 5.5% from last year and OOH up by 21.8%.

2 Zero-COVID strategy disruptive to growth

Although key indices in APAC, Europe and the Americas remain in growth, it is a tale of two halves. APAC markets, which have operated a zero COVID strategy, saw decreased rates of growth in the summer, in line with restrictions being imposed, contrasting to markets in Europe and the Americas which decided to live with the virus and consequently saw the highest rates of growth in the same period.

Despite this, markets in APAC have since recovered with marketing budgets and trading conditions showing a higher level of growth compared to Europe and the Americas.

3 The Great Resignation impacts staffing globally

The economic fallout of the pandemic resulted in the mass exodus of workers across America, now coined as ‘The Great Resignation’.

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This has been captured in the GMI as staffing levels in the Americas have consistently outperformed Europe and APAC in 2021.

However, the movement is not limited to the Americas as staffing levels in both Europe and APAC have seen an increased rate of growth in Q4.

From August onwards, global staffing levels have seen the highest rates of growth since the inception of the Global Marketing Index in 2011, with November and December at 65.3 (the highest index value).

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Consequently, this is likely to remain a challenge in 2022 as regions battle with factors such as Brexit, work life balance and the worker employer relationship.

Summing up, Zoe McCready, Senior Research Executive, WARC, said: “The Global Marketing Index 2021 shows a consistent overall increase in growth throughout the year, which culminated in November recording the highest Global Headline Index value since the inception of the report in 2011.”

WARC sees industry weathering pandemic

“This reflects an industry that is largely weathering the impact of the pandemic as it rapidly adjusts to new trading conditions which point to the ongoing strength of digital and mobile channels driven by the continued rise of e-commerce. 

“Increased staffing levels recorded globally make up for the impact of the Great Resignation, however, this could present productivity challenges in 2022, especially in the Americas, due to factors such as skills shortages.”