IPA Bellwether Q3 2023: Industry reactions


The latest IPA Bellwether Q3 2023 report makes for fascinating reading as marketing budgets continue to grow, PR booms and everyone has their eyes on a possible recession on the horizon.

So we’ve been asking the great and the good of the media, PR, marketing and adtech world, for their immediate reactions to this most critical of reports…

victoria-usher-gingermayVictoria Usher, CEO and Founder, GingerMay

“Public Relations and marketing spend is often an early warning beacon for economic shifts, so the upward revision to PR budgets — for the first time in five quarters — is not only reflective of what we’re seeing in the market, but also illustrates that connecting with target audiences across key communications channels is always a prudent investment.

“The focus on brand-building and a return to achieving wider business objectives is particularly encouraging because a solid integrated comms strategy is key to empowering B2B tech companies to achieve their goals.”

Thomas-IvesThomas Ives, Co-Founder and Director, RAAS LAB 

“The findings from the latest IPA Bellwether underscore that marketing is an investment – not a cost.

“Indeed, during a downturn, the most successful marketers will be those who have placed a strategic emphasis on brand building through long-term investment in smart technology.

“It comes as no surprise that AI is highlighted as a pivotal catalyst of growth. Leveraging AI-based technology can enhance advertising efficiency, helping to maintain lean but efficient marketing budgets.

“What’s more, working with solutions that deliver high-quality advertising and precise targeting reduces ad waste and optimises ROI.

“As we anticipate a contraction in ad spend through 2024, this technology will be crucial for navigating these evolving marketing dynamics and ensuring brands still make their mark in a tricky economic climate.”

Julia Bielecka-Dąbrowska (1)Julia Bielecka-Dąbrowska, Head of Sales Development & Efficiency, RTB House

“While short-term promotions were a highlighted focus last quarter, this report’s findings suggest a move towards long-term brand building.

“This will undoubtedly increase competition in an already challenging market. As we enter the busiest shopping period of the year, with Black Friday and Christmas proving key moments on the consumer spending calendar, brands need to manage their budget wisely.

“While brand awareness will be important, driving results will remain the priority.  Consumers have to be targeted in the right moment, the solution to which are personalised ads that can cut through – AI and deep learning technology allows marketers to maximise this potential.

“Taking this approach, marketers can benefit from performance results while keeping their brand front of mind.”

Matthew-Goldhill-picnicMatthew Goldhill, Founder and CEO, Picnic

“Evidently, the industry is still grappling with economic pressures. This underscores the need for advertisers to invest in quality digital ad solutions that will drive meaningful outcomes.

“This will not only mitigate wasted ad spend but will also align with sustainability goals…a win-win approach for both brands and the environment.

Ian-Liddicoat-AdludioIan Liddicoat, CTO and Head of Data Science, Adludio

“In the face of a gloomy economic outlook and a possible recession, the relative resilience of marketing budgets in Q3 2023 is encouraging to see.

“Having learned the lesson of the past few years, brands have clearly understood the importance of maintaining marketing activity through a crisis.

“Nevertheless, with a predicted drop in ad spend, marketers must ensure that their budgets are working as hard as possible.

“It comes as no surprise then that AI technology has been identified in the report as a strategic investment. Indeed, it is especially powerful when applied in the optimisation of ad campaigns.

“Capable of analysing which creative elements are driving outcomes, this is giving marketers both the ability to deliver the best performing ads but also the deep insight as to why one combination of objects, call to action, or text is more effective than another.

“As we enter this turbulent economic period, brands that commit to developing and applying creative intelligence in this way will have a distinct advantage.”

Harriet Durnford-Smith - AdverityHarriet Durnford-Smith, Chief Marketing Officer, Adverity  

“Whilst the adoption of Gen AI tools for content and creative production is a big step forward for marketers, we are still yet to see the full power of GenAI tools within marketing.

“The real game-changer will be when GenAI is applied to disciplines such as data management and data analytics.

“This has the potential to massively increase the data literacy of marketing teams. Ultimately, removing any barriers to insights means marketers are able to make better, faster, and more informed decisions.”

Tim Geenen-raynTim Geenen, co-founder and CEO, Rayn

“Despite the challenging economic climate, main media marketing spend has risen this quarter, putting the industry in good stead for the coming year.

“We have seen AI progress rapidly in 2023 and it is cited as both an opportunity and a threat in the report. Nethertheless, it will continue to be an important tool to address and reach audiences. But for marketers to achieve the right results it needs to be implemented correctly.

“By utilising in-the-moment insights, marketers can reach consumers with enough precision and with the right ad.

“But for savvy marketers who want to ensure their marketing budget is spent in the right places, they would be wise to invest in audiences that are verified Customer-validated audiences which will prove to be crucial when budgets remain tight.”

Clara-De-RosaClara De Rosa, Head of Customer Success, Adform

“The UK’s economic environment is clearly facing significant challenges, both domestic and global, and with a recession likely as per the report’s finding.

“However, in the face of these obstacles, the report highlights that many companies are showing a forward-thinking approach.

“This includes bolstering marketing budgets, making strategic investments in cutting-edge technologies and taking proactive measures towards sustainability goals.”

“This is encouraging, but in order to maximise the efficiency of adspend in this  dynamic arena,  marketers must ensure they are taking this approach with their partners, particularly those who can support with omnichannel strategies.

“This adaptability and expertise will prove crucial as brands look to capitalise on others’ retrenching ad spending in Q4 and beyond.

Hugh_StevensHugh Stevens, Managing Director UK, LiveRamp

“It is encouraging to see the trend identified last quarter, of more brands expanding marketing budgets in the face of economic pressure, has gained momentum in Q3.

“This reflects our own research carried out earlier this year into the key priorities of senior UK marketers.

“Moreover, following a rise in sales promotions spending in Q2, the reduction of such activity this quarter, in favour of activity in ‘main media advertising’, shows that marketers are re-acknowledging the importance of brand value for longer-term business health.

“Nevertheless, with consumer income squeezed heading into Q4 coupled with a projected drop in adspend in 2024, marketers, especially among retail brands, must ensure that they are taking this strategic view across the board.

“This includes investing in data technologies. Of particular note are those which drive efficiencies across media plans, to ensure budget is being optimised and directed towards responsive audiences, and provide transparency and closed loop-measurement across the evolving customer journey via a strong, first-party data foundation.

“Having this data presents a significant opportunity and competitive advantage in better understanding who their customers are, their interests, and how to utilise this across their broader marketing strategies.

“Brands who have adopted this approach also have the choice to collaborate with partners, whether that’s other brands or third party data partners, to enhance their own customer intelligence and build activation plans that will reach people in the right mindset to buy.

“Harnessed correctly, this presents a key tool for marketers navigating the next quarter and beyond.”

Sarah-timsSarah Tims, AVP, Marketing, LoopMe

“A looming recession might have triggered a fall in ad spend until 2024, but more companies are recognising the importance of investing in innovative tools such as artificial intelligence.

“The application of AI in marketing has provided a major opportunity to ensure marketing efforts are based on confirmed consumer preferences over assumptions.

“Advertisers hoping to gain market share from competitors must use marketing tools to draw on insights from granular measurement and adjust their efforts in real-time to encourage customers to stay loyal.

“Despite the gloomy economic outlook, businesses should direct what’s left of their ad budgets to areas that will produce the best ROI.”

Matt-Nash.jpegMatt Nash, UK MD, Scibids

“Despite a pessimistic economic outlook, this Bellwether gives reason to be optimistic in the fact that online marketing budgets remain buoyant, and are clearly being prioritised as a key driver of business growth.

“This bolstered confidence is likely thanks to AI, which the IPA has identified as an area of strategic investment.

“This aligns with the findings of our own survey earlier this year, which reported that 87% of UK brand marketers view AI as an important component of their media plans.

“Nevertheless, with many brands looking to seize the opportunity of others retrenching spend, it is critical that they invest in the right types of technology that can cut through the noise.

“Marketing teams which are prioritising investment in AI and customisable bidding in optimising campaigns will unlock particular value.

“Capable of ingesting demand-side platform (DSP) log data as well as first- and third-party sources, these can drive bespoke metrics in programmatically-bought media, including attention and return on ad spend (ROAS).

“Media buying teams who are engaging these smart solutions will gain the upper hand in ROI into Q4 and 2024.”

Kathryn-Roberts-Senior-Sales-Manager-AMAKathryn Roberts, Senior Sales Manager, AMA

“Whilst this quarter’s Bellwether report saw a net decrease in audio budgets, this shouldn’t take away from the fact that 85% of budgets remain unchanged despite their exceptional growth over the past few years.

“Spending on digital audio advertising has surged by over 80% since 2020, due to the proliferation of audio channels and popularity of streaming, online radio and podcasts. This has resulted in an increasing number of advertisers incorporating digital audio campaigns into their strategies.

“Taking the looming recession into account, dynamic audio advertising serves as a more cost effective option than other forms of digital advertising and is better at connecting consumers with personalised content at the most opportune moment.

“What’s more, audio has the ability to truly engage audiences with highly personalised ads that resonate with the listener in exactly the right moment, making it a hugely promising investment channel for advertisers.

“With AI transforming audio advertising even further through elements such as greater contextual targeting and enhanced personalisation, we expect to see its popularity as a channel continue to grow.”

Permutive, Elizabeth BrennanElizabeth Brennan, GM for advertisers, Permutive

“It’s positive to see marketing budgets expanded in Q3. However, as we move into the biggest shopping period of the year, the most important thing is that brands are getting the best return on their investment. Particularly as capturing the attention of cash-strapped consumers is no mean feat.

“To ensure the most successful Q4 sales period, advertisers need to reach all potential audiences. Yet with only 30% of consumers addressable within the open marketplace, this is easier said than done. Getting in front of 100% of target consumers is possible, it simply requires a change of approach.

“Instead of focusing on the status quo of current programmatic buying methods, brands should take this opportunity to drive incremental reach to consumers across all browsers and in all environments, by forming more direct pathways into reputable Publishers.

“This will allow them to tap into publishers’ highly valuable first-party data and reach previously unaddressable audiences at scale, while remaining completely privacy-safe.”

Dominic-Woolfe-EXTEDominic Woolfe, UK Managing Director, EXTE

“Given the current economic climate, it’s really encouraging to see advertisers beginning to redress the balance between brand building and short-term performance and promotional activity.

“It’s now imperative to move away from marketing tactics that aren’t aimed at championing awareness and driving success for brands in the longer term.

“Context, creativity and content are three key areas that advertisers should be focusing on when it comes to brand building.

“Predictive AI can, and has, been used for several years to help make advertising more efficient. However, generative AI  is set to open up endless possibilities when it comes to creativity.

“This is huge news for advertisers, as creativity continues to be the single biggest factor in determining whether a campaign is successful or not.

“Ensuring ads reach the right audiences in the right context is, of course, imperative, but if the creative isn’t on point, however good your targeting technology is, it still won’t hit the spot.

anna-forbes-azerionAnna Forbes, UK Country Manager, Azerion

“In recent months, advertisers have faced significant challenges, including the rising cost of living, navigating geopolitical instability, and adapting to shorter attention spans from consumers.

“So, it’s encouraging to see that main media marketing spend has risen, signalling  an optimistic end to the year.

“However, securing a competitive edge in tough times means focusing efforts on reliable partners who can deliver tangible results with the utmost efficiency.

“With a heightened demand for advertising campaigns to deliver strong results, advertisers have had to seek more streamlined methods to achieve their campaign objectives.

“This shift in priorities has highlighted the importance of attention, a metric that has always been a crucial yet intricate aspect of advertising.

“To sustain the growth of media spending in the upcoming year, advertisers should consider full funnel brand performance solutions, with attention at the heart, to effectively navigate the ever-changing landscape.”

Alex-Khan-amplified-intellAlex Khan, EVP Global Partnerships, Amplified Intelligence

“With inflation and elevated cost of living continuing to remain a concern, we’re seeing tentatively rising optimism about better times and bigger budgets ahead, even though growth is slow.

“Amid these pressures, there’s a stronger need to address issues with media measurement to ensure improved spending power across main media isn’t wasted. Traditional reach and frequency metrics still only show where viewable ads were served — not true audience engagement.

“While the report shows a decline in audio budgets, this tends to achieve high levels of attention – so this clearly remains an undervalued proposition.

“Keeping budgets healthy requires efficient media management that drives greater outcomes for less outlay. Achieving that is going to mean augmenting standard planning approaches with measures like AARCs (attention adjusted reach curves).

“This will enable brands to achieve true audience engagement with an accurate understanding of how much attention each ad, format, and channel actually delivers.

“This then can show a direct correlation to outcomes / actions. The end result being greater media efficiency – something all brands want.”

Anne-CoghlanAnne Coghlan, Co-Founder and COOScope3

“Industry conversations are pointing to a more action-focused mentality for businesses and this report highlights that those already incorporating sustainability into their business strategies have reason to remain positive despite the demanding economic landscape.

“We know that investing more in robust sustainable practices also leads to improved business outcomes and ROI, so the day-to-day challenges of marketing at this volatile time should not distract from the urgent need to improve emissions in the industry as a whole.

“Decarbonisation is about progress, not perfection, and requires more industry-wide collaboration to drive a substantial reduction of its carbon footprint.”

Rob-Sewell-CEO-SmartFrame-Technologies-1Rob Sewell, CEO, SmartFrame

“Long term business growth is the most effective strategy when tackling strong economic headwinds.

“However, for this to succeed brands need reliable partners that provide true value, prioritising privacy compliance and brand safety, without compromising engagement and user experience.

“In a post-cookie world, most are turning to contextual targeting, but many solutions still struggle to deliver the tracking, measurement, and transparency required.

“Insights such as how, where, and when consumers interact with content are going to be critical in supporting effective optimisation and in helping advertisers adapt through uncertain times.”

Ossie-bayram-oguryOssie Bayram, UK Country DIrector, Ogury

“As brands syphon more of their budgets towards digital channels in order to navigate the continuing economic uncertainty, many marketers will be focussed on the here-and-now in order to drive results.

“But advertisers cannot lose sight of the loss of advertising identifiers such as third-party cookies. Those who are not already preparing for this new era of digital advertising risk being left behind and losing market share to rivals.

“The privacy-first future of advertising is unstoppable, and those who plan for and embrace this new paradigm will see long-term success.”