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News & Views from Alchemis

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Call us for a chat on +44 (0)20 7836 3678 or email Amanda Francis


The coalition, the goal that never was, rollercoaster marketing budgets – Nostradamus would struggle with 2010!

2010 has been interesting for a number of political, sporting and other factors. However, Alchemis is focused on advertising and marketing and the Guardian article (July 12th) was a great sanity check as it mirrors our experiences over the first half of 2010.

The article focuses on the recent Bellwether report, published by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. It has found that one in five companies cut annual advertising spend between April and June. This compares with 15% that said spend was increased.

It was as recent as Quarter One when the report announced that more UK companies raised their marketing budgets than cut them for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

Advertising took a knock, although big events such as the World Cup meant the dip in this area was not as significant as it could have been. Sales promotion was hit very hard, with the report recording “the third fastest downgrade to spending on the sales promotion sector in the Bellwether survey’s history”

It is not all doom and gloom. For those in the digital sector spend went up, although at a very slow rate. Internet advertising continued to grow, with social media remaining a major focus. With ROI crucial, digital media’s measurability is very appealing to company bean counters.

Despite all of this, as a new business agency, we (and our clients) should latch onto Rory Sutherland’s (IPA President) comments – “Although this indicates a less optimistic picture than previously thought for this year, marketing spend is still set to increase.”

In fact, we are optimistic at Alchemis. As I mention above, our experiences have mirrored the positive first quarter followed by a slower second quarter with the digital sector remaining the growth area. We, and our clients, entered 2010 with a bang. New briefs were plentiful and outstanding proposals suddenly got the green light. We had a record quarter for clients converting business in all disciplines. The feeling from the market and our clients felt positive. Companies and marketing departments had stuck two fingers up to the recession and the combined efforts of Alchemis and our clients over the last hard 12 months were paying dividends.

Quarter Two did see a dip, although in fact, there were and are still lots of opportunities out there for small to medium sized agencies and results from the second quarter still smashed the figures from 2009. I am not an economist, but there is no doubt in my mind that the uncertainty both before and following the election was a factor. Those are out of the way now and the one thing that has not waned is the number of marketing professionals who have wanted to meet new agencies. We have set record numbers of meetings in May and June. If times are tough, you need to look at quality, cost-effective solutions. I’ve waxed lyrical about it before, but our client base of small to medium sized agencies offer exactly that and the market is really open to approaches from them.

There is still much uncertainty out there and whilst commentators will have their opinion, what happens next is anyone’s guess. However, we know that you will need to be prepared for both a down or upturn. If your current clients cut their budgets, you need to have irons in the fire with new business. If, as we all hope, the second quarter dip is short lived, you want to make sure that you have got the introductions out of the way before those budgets are released and allocated.

The Lib-Cons will be there for a while yet, Germany has beaten us again, but who knows what the rest of 2010 will bring? All I know is that everyone in agency land needs to be prepared for any eventuality.

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