Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

IPA Bellwether Report Q1 2022: Industry Reaction

UK marketing budgets grew at their strongest rates since 2014 in the first quarter of this year, thanks to increasing confidence on the back of pandemic-related restrictions being lifted, according to the latest IPA Bellwether Report.

We’ve collected comments from marketing experts across the industry, including Bluestripe Communications (owned by Bluestripe Group, owner of NDA) clients and other industry executives.

Natasha Banjo, Director of Operations, News Live – News UK

“It is excellent to see the growth of marketing budgets on an eight-year high. In fact, all marketing activities are set to receive an increase in budget, with events leading the charge with an expansion of +22.1%. Easing of pandemic restrictions during the first few months of the year has given businesses the confidence to put marketing spend back into this essential area.

“The next year will be a huge time for growth within our industry. The pandemic taught marketers many lessons around catering for all, for example, creating hybrid events to suit different audiences. With reduced restrictions on large scale events, I believe we will see investment move towards face-to-face opportunities and projects as businesses seek to re-engage audiences. 

“To succeed, marketers looking to move or return spend into events need to ensure the event concept is aligned with their brand messaging and audience interest. Flexibility will remain key, as we never know what’s around the corner. And the key lesson here is that events need to be adaptable, as well as be able to deliver authentic and creative experiences.”

Nick Reid, SVP & Managing Director, EMEA, DoubleVerify

“It’s great to see the UK industry’s continued recovery and growth, with this quarter’s Bellwether Report revealing marketing budgets rising close to an eight-year high, up 14.1%. Brands are building momentum from this growth through investment across platforms and environments, whilst utilising technology that can optimise from a media quality baseline. We are also seeing the transition away from reliance on the third-party cookie for digital advertising.

“For this reason, we can expect an even greater focus on areas such as context and attention from targeting, measurement and optimisation perspectives. As advertisers look to engage and deliver more meaningful experiences to their consumers, insights into metrics like exposure and engagement provide powerful new sets of data that can help predict an outcome – whether a brand is looking to drive awareness or conversion. Armed with this insight, campaigns can be refined, high-performing environments can be identified, and approaches optimised to secure consumer attention at scale, without the need for tracking.”

Dom Woolfe, CEO UK, Azerion

“While the IPA Bellwether reports an eight-year high on ad investment, marketers who ignore the impact of the rising costs of living on consumers risk inefficient and uncompetitive campaigns.

“The brands that thrive in this uncertain period will be those that adapt to the current consumer behaviour with creativity. The e-gaming sector, for example, is one of incredible potential as brands are now able to integrate and activate in-game ads into the creative of the game and serve them to a highly attentive audience.

“Brands must prioritise creativity and campaign effectiveness to succeed in driving brand performance and making the most of this boom in adspend.”

Phil Duffield, VP UK, The Trade Desk

“It’s great to see that reaching the previous peak of marketing growth, not seen since 2014, is almost within the industry’s grasp as we continue to bounce back from the impact of the last couple of years. However, it isn’t looking like total plain sailing just yet.

”Whilst Covid restrictions have eased, today’s Bellwether report shows that there are new issues for advertisers to contend with, from supply chain disruptions to the war in Ukraine. And with inflation set to continue climbing, potentially even into double digits, this further heightens pressure for advertisers to spend their growing budgets smartly.

“Marketers can’t afford to take their foot off the gas and leave the agility and precision born from the pandemic behind – proving ROI is just as important as it ever has been. This is why programmatic continues to attract a growing share of advertiser’s budget – it allows transparency and crystal-clear measurement, so that every penny of spend can be optimised to the fullest, no matter the external circumstances.”

Ryan Afshar, Head of Addressability UK, LiveRamp

“Digital marketing budgets continue to expand as the industry confidently rolls into the first-party future, with the IPA Bellwether report indicating budget levels at an eight year high. 

“As last month’s IAB Europe guide made clear, the industry is well-prepared for the next stage of identity-based consumer engagement as addressability and first-party data become the cornerstone of our new transparent ecosystem. To ensure that their ad spend budget is being directed efficiently, brands should continue to build campaigns based on people-based identifiers. Simultaneously, publishers who can increase their authenticated user base using strategies such as content walls, newsletters and email subscriptions, will build trust and loyalty with their audiences as privacy and personalisation are balanced.

“Publishers and brands who can work together on strategies that have addressability at their heart will thrive as we enter a privacy-centred, addressable future.” 

Andrew Stephenson, Director of EMEA Marketing, Treasure Data

“Brands are clearly desperate to engage and entertain consumers, and today’s positive IPA Bellwether figures highlight that marketers are set up to drive this forward. But the landscape has changed irreversibly since budgets last hit record highs eight years ago.

“A global pandemic, rising costs and geopolitical tensions underpin every marketing decision and spend opportunity. And in parallel, consumer data has skyrocketed as our day to day lives shift online. What’s clear is that brands that do not have a true view of their customers under these circumstances risk firing blind and creating ineffective brand campaigns.

“The need for a solid data management strategy has never been so important. Particularly because our own research highlights that CMOs lack confidence around data, and this is fuelling decision paralysis at a time when businesses need to be bold to succeed. Marketers are competing for brand loyalty and engagement against a backdrop of uncertainty and volatility.

“Actionable data allows marketers to be more agile and make more confident decisions, which in turn allows for a clear justification back to the boardroom on the value of marketing as a business-critical function. Marketers have a clear opportunity to drive business growth, but data must sit at the heart of this.”

Isabella Jenkins, Agency Partner, Permutive

It is exciting to see the growth of marketing budgets on an eight-year high following the turbulence of the pandemic. However, ad spend forecasts have reduced for the next two years. If ad spend is to reduce, brands will need their advertising to work harder as a result, making more out of less spend. One way brands can achieve this is by leading with a strong first-party data strategy, reaching the right audiences in the most effective way possible.

“This strategy will necessitate partnering with publishers, providing brands with access to consented first-party data that publishers hold. These direct relationships can give brands detailed insights into their audiences to ensure they are maximising the effectiveness of their ad spend in an unpredictable time for the industry. User privacy can also be kept at the heart of this strategy, as no individuals are identified, meaning that brands can ensure they are being privacy-compliant in an age where user data is an invaluable commodity. With this approach, advertisers can maximise their campaigns regardless of the ad spend forecasts, rebuilding trust in advertising once again.”

Anastasia Leng, CEO and Founder, CreativeX

“Today’s IPA Bellwether figures clearly indicate confidence returning to brands, and competition hotting up to attract audiences. But the stakes are rising too – bigger budgets mean greater responsibility and brand campaigns must stand up to greater scrutiny.

“In parallel, the rise of new platforms, channels and the proliferation of content means marketers must make quick yet effective decisions about hundreds of thousands of pieces of content. But what’s most worrying, is that brands aren’t ready for this, because they are not optimising their creative content. Bigger budgets and brand ambition only amplify this challenge.

“We know that creative excellence translates into sales uplift. On average, just 28% of a brand’s creative meets their own quality criteria when we start working with a partner. That means a massive 70% of creative is underutilised – for some, this can mean millions in wasted advertising spend.

“Marketers can’t afford to take these risks, especially in an ever-competitive and uncertain geopolitical environment. Marketers must wake up and recognise their creative for what it is: a major untapped competitive advantage to drive media efficiencies.”

Justin Taylor, UK MD, Teads

“Following on from last quarter’s report, I’m pleased to see the optimism was well founded, with total marketing budget growth close to an eight-year high.However, this will be challenged by the issues facing our world today, from conflict in Ukraine to the rising cost of living. Across the industry, we’ve seen strong revisions in marketing budgets. Now, it is vital that we as an industry are moving to make a difference in the world, helping to improve our planet wherever possible.

“With the eyes of the industry now focused on delivering sustainability, advertisers need to ensure that they are working as hard as possible to reach this goal. One way in which they can achieve this is by spotlighting attention. By creating a framework for measuring attention, advertisers can deliver more engaging, shorter ads that in turn reduce their carbon footprint. Sustainable media may only be a relatively small part of the ‘climate action’ equation, but with ad spend forecasts lowered for the next two years, advertisers need to be smart with their creative. Delivering sustainable advertising is key at a time when consumers are demanding climate action from the brands they consume. As the ad industry continues to rebuild, it is all of our responsibility to ensure we are creating a responsible and sustainable media ecosystem.”

Harriet Cunningham, UK Sales Director, Scibids

“While it’s positive to see a near eight-year high in marketing budgets after a turbulent few years, a forecast of lower advertising spend reveals a greater level of complexity in the digital ecosystem right now. If advertising is considered an economic risk, it suggests that current advertising practices – reliant on old models and technology – are no longer seen as viable. This isn’t surprising. 

“For marketers that have taken heed of the dramatic changes seen in digital marketing, preparations via new platforms and technologies will have already taken place. The most revolutionary of these new technologies has been AI, taking levels of data analysis to unprecedented levels. In fact, as an increasing number of marketers use AI-driven solutions to harness new forms of contextual signals for targeting, conversion rates, attention and overall efficiency will increase. 

“Brands and marketers should already be leaving clicks and visits as a measure of success behind, tapping into AI as a means to customise campaigns and analyse relevant data at a granular level to deliver advanced optimization. I expect in the long term we’ll see a resurgence in all digital marketing applications, driven by cutting-edge machine learning that maximises return on ad spend.”

Insights from more industry executives can be read here.