IPA Bellwether Report Q1 2023 shows resilient industry growth

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Total UK marketing budget growth hit a one-year high despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, according to the latest IPA Bellwether reading of the marketing industry.

The IPA noted in its report for the first quarter of 2023 that, despite an “intensely challenging economic environment both domestically and globally”, total marketing budgets across the UK continued to rise at the start of the year.

IPA Bellwether Q1 2023

In fact, spending growth was its strongest since Q2 2022, with the net balance of firms registering upward budget revisions rising from +2.2% in the previous quarter to +8.2%.

The IPA’s data showed 21.1% of firms saw an expansion, more than enough to offset the 12.9% of firms registering budget cuts.

Around two-thirds (66.0%) recorded no change in spending.

Main media marketing, which includes online advertising activity and budgets for big-ticket campaigns on TV, recorded its strongest expansion in spending since Q1 2022 (net balance of +5.8%, from +4.4%).

The breakdown of this category showed continued marked expansions in other online (+10.5%, from +6.3%) and video (+7.9%, from +13.7%), and a renewed upturn in audio (+1.7%, from 0.0%).

However, the IPA noted that published brands (-1.9%, from -3.9%) and the out of home sector (-12.4%, from -8.8%) both proved a drag on main media in Q1.

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Sales promotions budgets returned to expansion in Q1 (net balance of +8.8%, from -4.0%), rising at the strongest pace in nearly two decades as companies dedicated more resources to supporting their customers through the cost-of-living crisis.

Another round of budget growth was also seen for events (net balance of +6.3%, from +5.7%) as marketing executives look to re-engage with new and prospective clients face-to-face. Direct marketing spending also rose at the start of the year (net balance of +4.2%, from -0.6%).

Commenting on the latest survey results, Paul Bainsfair, IPA Director General, said: “This is a positive start to the financial year for marketing budgets, all things considered.

“The overall increase in confidence from UK companies regarding their financial prospects is being reflected in their marketing budget decision making.

“As the cost-of-living crisis continues, it is understandable for companies to offer sales promotions to help their customers’ tightened purse strings.

“To ensure brand loyalty isn’t eroded and to protect the long-term health of their brands, however, such activity must be coupled with investment in longer-term brand building media.

“We are pleased, therefore, to see that while investment in sales promotion activity has spiked this quarter, investment in main media advertising was revised up to its strongest level since this time last year.”

Commenting on the latest survey results, Joe Hayes, Senior Economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said: “The latest Bellwether survey once again highlights the resilience of UK businesses who have endured both a pandemic and a period of plunging consumer confidence and multi-decade high inflation.

“Total marketing budget growth broadened out during the opening quarter, showing that more companies are tapping into their marketing resources to help them successfully navigate through economic turbulence.”