Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Confidence high for the digital media and marketing industry

Whisper it, but there’s a distinct note of cautious optimism in the digital advertising air. 

Bluestripe Group and New Digital Age’s first Digital Advertising Industry Sentiment Tracker report and virtual round table shows that despite, or even perhaps because of, the havoc that COVID has caused, things are looking up. 

Our event brought together TSB chief marketing officer Pete Markey, IAB COO Jane McNeill, Teads UK managing director Justin Taylor and PHD UK head of response and board director Lauren Ogúndèkó to debate the findings and discuss the industry’s new future. 

Arguably the biggest take-out of both is the positivity with which the digital advertising and media industry is approaching the coming year, particularly when it comes to revenue. Despite a strong start to the first few weeks of the year, the outbreak drove record decline in overall UK marketing budgets in Q2, according to the IPA. 

But our respondents are confident that the tide is turning, with nearly two-thirds expecting digital revenue growth over the next 12 months – and some 18% expect it to be up by 50% or more during that period. 

How digital is leading marketing’s road to recovery

That’s certainly the feeling of Ogúndèkó: “We went through a really bumpy curve. When we started to see clients’ spend decline it got really worrying. You started to worry about your colleagues, teams and just the mental health aspect of things.”

When clients started spending again digital benefited with spend improving “quarter on quarter on quarter”, she says.

Recovery was coming in previously unexpected areas, adds Taylor, indicating just how quickly the landscape has changed, and continues to do so. He points to Reach PLC’s strong Q3 recovery, driven by the demand for digital and local news. The group is currently rolling out more local versions of its ‘Live’ digital platforms. 

“As individuals we’re focusing much more on our local surroundings, and not just because we’re not working in cities or other environments that we’re commuting to,” he says. “We’re more aware of what’s around us, and the news is happening around us.”

The right time to be positive, despite stronger Covid rules?

Even with the threat of further waves and spikes, continuing local lockdowns and the fear of falling consumer spend, with “so much opportunity still out there, it is the right time for us to be positive”. 

For Markey consumer demand never went away and he remains “cautiously optimistic”. “Certainly as we were all emerging from lockdown, it felt like there was more of a rhythm of trading coming back. Definitely within financial services, there’s demand for products,” he says.

“The opportunity and the challenge is just watching for and acting on the emerging consumer trends because as we’re all finding through the COVID situation, people’s finances have been impacted in lots of different ways. They are going to be quite disparate and different.”

There were those for whom finances were stretched and challenged because of furlough or redundancy, others because of lockdown and being home had more money in their account. 

Fear, discombobulation – and a taste of what’s to come

There are also fears for certain parts of the industry and how the pandemic will affect the new and next generations. 

“I feel discombobulated,” says McNeill. “I feel very positive for the digital advertising industry as a whole, which will continue to thrive, but I have concerns for some of the smaller players in the market who might not survive, and I don’t feel incredibly positive for the people who have just come into the industry.”

These topics will be explored in full in future articles of this series, as well as issues including how business and employee relationships have been affected, what leaders have learnt during lockdown, why diversity is a big challenge and opportunity and how the new world of work might look. 

Overall, though, the mood is far better than we might have expected just six months ago. A snap Twitter poll that ran during the digital debate showed that 45% are feeling ‘quietly confident’ about Q4, 19% ‘pretty miserable’, and 36% with ‘no idea’. It’s going to be quite a ride.  

To download the full Bluestripe Group and New Digital Age Q3 2020 Digital Advertising Industry Sentiment Tracker report click here. It features breakdowns of sentiment across varied areas of the industry and expert commentary from brand, agency, adtech, publishing and trade body leaders. 

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