Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

IPA Bellwether Q4 ’23: more industry reaction

Senior industry figures have continued to have their say on the findings of the IPA Bellwether Report for Q4 2023. Here are the latest industry reactions…

Ian Liddicoat, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Data Science at Adludio

“With marketing budgets reaching growth levels not seen for almost a decade, the industry’s confidence in the face of prevailing economic headwinds is grounds for celebration. The confluence of artificial intelligence and marketing, highlighted by the report’s respondents as a key opportunity, is likely at the heart of this upswing. Having arguably been the poster child of marketers last year, we can expect the integration of sophisticated, proprietary AI-based technologies to continue in 2024 and beyond. 

“Of particular note will be those that can support ad creativity. Indeed, despite budget increases, the spend allocated to digital campaigns will need to be working even harder – to cut above the noise of others and gain the attention of receptive UK consumers who remain in the grip of the cost of living crisis. AI-based technologies offer a solution here – especially those that can determine which creative elements, and what combination of these elements, are driving engagement and attention. This provides brands with not only the best-performing ads, but also creative intelligence that can be leveraged in future campaigns.

“To ensure long-term competitive advantage, these expanded marketing budgets should be channelled appropriately into these types of technologies.”

Mateusz Rumiński, VP of Product at PrimeAudience

“It is great to see in today’s report that marketing budgets are looking so strong. 2024 will be a significant year for the industry and all corners of the ecosystem will be adjusting to the loss of cookies. With the first 1% of third-party cookies having now been deprecated, and more to come later this year, I expect that budgets will be centred on privacy-focused approaches to advertising to maximise their money in the most effective ways. 

Capitalising on Google’s solutions, including the Privacy Sandbox, will ensure that brands stay on top of any further changes as the depreciation of cookies continues. PrimeAudience research with Censuswide found that 30% of senior marketers across the UK and US surveyed were still unsure how to use Google’s Protected Audience API, with 27% feeling the same about Google Topics. As such, marketers have an opportunity to focus their attention and well-earned budget on cookieless for 2024.” 

Phil Acton, UK Country Manager, Adform

“Although facing lingering economic uncertainty, including the cost-of-living crisis that continues to put pressure on customer purchasing power, the latest IPA Bellwether results indicate that brands are not backing away but are doubling down. Now, brands need to make sure that these expanded marketing budgets are really changing the game and driving results.

“This means making meaningful investments in sustainable and outcome-driven technologies. Especially those capable of tackling the opportunities and challenges of the multi-ID world, providing privacy-compliant access to addressable audiences no matter the channel chosen. It is encouraging, therefore, to see technology listed by the IPA as a key area of growth. 

“As the industry moves away from soon-to-be-deprecated cookies and burgeoning channels like CTV continue to accumulate users, brands who have already investigated such solutions are ahead of the game.” 

Julia Bielecka-Dąbrowska, Head of Sales Development & Efficiency at RTB House

“The insights from the last quarter suggest a promising outlook for marketing budgets, defying initial recession predictions. Unsurprisingly, AI features heavily in anecdotes from businesses looking at key themes for 2024. It is no secret that the technology is evolving quickly and this will only continue, so while it may seem overwhelming to know where to best invest in AI, my advice is to begin with using it to better target audiences.”

“As we enter the cookies-less era of marketing, new and innovative approaches to reaching audiences will be key. Education around how AI and deep learning technology can support this, allows marketers to decide the most efficient method of implementation for marketing  budgets. With the right tools, marketers can maximise impact and target precisely with personalised ads, while keeping brand messaging front of mind. I expect to see more of this as we navigate the 2024 landscape with more fruitful budgets.”

David Shaw, Co-Founder and CEO, Cedara

“It’s great to see the market bounce back following a turbulent twelve months, however it’s crucial that marketers keep sustainable practices top of mind, particularly with overall marketing spend set to continue to rise. 

“While the report notes the importance of making sustainability improvements, this should sit at the top of the agenda. The marketing industry has a huge impact on the environment, with emissions amounting to double those of the aviation industry.

“As a result, marketers need to be mindful where they place their budgets to ensure that they go to vendors that are investing in reducing their overall emissions. The first step towards sustainability is for media suppliers to start measuring the CO2 across their entire business operations, including their media supply chain. Only then can a business, marketers, and the industry as a whole accelerate the path towards reduction.”

Mike Khouri, CEO, Tactical

“With marketing budgets on the rise, we expect to see brands embrace immersive tech to create increasingly personalised brand experiences.

“The goal however is never innovation for innovation’s sake, it’s about creating moments and narratives that resonate with your audience wherever they are.

“This may mean testing new platforms for the first time or incorporating new technologies, such as Augmented Reality (AR), into creative campaigns, but should always be done with an eye on driving value through tangible results today.”

Dominic Woolfe, UK Managing Director, EXTE

“Despite initial recession predictions for 2024, this report provides grounds for optimism, indicating a robust year ahead for marketers.

 “One of the driving forces behind the renewed positivity in the industry has been the proliferation of AI and how it is transforming advertising beyond recognition. Through 2024, we’re going to see the dynamic interplay between creativity and advanced technology really break new ground, to offer an unparalleled user experience with endless creative opportunities. 

“Future-gazing brands will be the ones that bring their products and services to life by combining beautiful and exciting AI-enhanced creatives with privacy-safe precision targeting that can place ads in the perfect context to capture the eyes of relevant consumers. 

“With better creatives and improved placements and targeting, the effectiveness of ad campaigns will be boosted substantially. Ultimately, in 2024, we’ll enter a new era of digital advertising where creative executions start to truly connect with consumers and start becoming more engaging and enjoyable; in turn, deliver better ROI.

Ben Walmsley, Managing Director, The Sun at News UK

“There are positive signs from the research but it’s clear consumers are still feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis. Our readers tell us the same thing; they’re still spending but are making careful choices and evaluating what truly matters to them. Marketers that remain active in tougher times are likely to outperform with a considered approach, reaching consumers when they’re engaged with their passions and interests in order to connect with their purchasing decisions. 

“More broadly, the significant growth in online video is also reflected in what we see; quality journalism and great storytelling is in high demand with consumers, and consequently advertisers, appreciating convenient, impactful formats.”

Hugh Stevens, Managing Director UK, at LiveRamp

“Despite the economic turbulence of the past 12 months, online and main media marketing budgets across the previous few Bellwether reports have displayed a buoyant resilience. With the marked increase in this latest report, it is clear that brands have learned a key lesson: reducing marketing spend in the face of a crisis is detrimental to long-term growth, and instead marketers should look to drive media efficiency through effective data driven measurement. This was a point that resonated amongst senior UK marketers polled in our 2023 research into their key priorities. Nevertheless, this spend must still be allocated strategically.

“Indeed, the persistent cost of living crisis means consumer spending power remains squeezed, and the ongoing evolution in shopping behaviours will need to be navigated very carefully in 2024. As those FMCG and Retail brands surveyed by the IPA highlighted, success here will be through offering value and relevant buyer experiences. This means understanding the consumer and what matters most to them. 

“The intention amongst surveyed brands to invest in technology is encouraging in this regard. Data collaboration solutions, which unite data from external and internal sources to unlock valuable and legal insight, can provide this view of consumers, who they are, what they like, and how to most effectively use this data. For example, brands who have adopted collaboration can understand the impact that different media touchpoints have across the customer journey and subsequently drive efficiencies – including optimising activations amongst responsive, high-value audiences. However, this is a fast-growing and competitive arena; for brands who have yet to underpin their 2024 marketing strategy with data collaboration, the clock is ticking.”

Nick Reid, Managing Director, EMEA, DoubleVerify 

“Whether it be the forthcoming deprecation of third-party cookies, or the fast-evolving newscycle challenges we expect with the various elections, there’s a lot that brands must prepare for this year.

“With this backdrop, to ensure advertising budgets are reaching their optimum ability, it’s crucial that brands are cognisant of both the challenges and opportunities when it comes to driving return from their responsible media investment. Brands that embrace solutions that harness factors such as Attention, Media Quality or Contextual relevance, will be the ones that not only orientate around suitability, but also harness those signals to drive improved business outcomes. The IPA Bellwether’s indication that AI and technology are key investment areas is encouraging in this regard. Indeed, we can see that brands already working with partners that leverage these solutions are ahead of the game. Especially those that utilise customisable AI for bespoke metrics like attention and return on ad spend. Meanwhile, those yet to investigate the benefits of these solutions are currently leaving value on the table; compromising the potential return on investment of their advertising budgets.”  

Josh Krichefski, CEO of GroupM UK & EMEA and IPA President

“So many companies revising their budgets upwards with such optimism is great news for agencies. Overzealous cost-cutting is an easy trap to fall into when faced with a lagging economy, so it’s promising that businesses see the long-term value in brand building through advertising and are willing to open their wallets accordingly. We need businesses to stimulate growth this year, and advertising plays a crucial role in that.

“We predicted that live events would see a resurgence in popularity this year and these figures seem to support that. Its net upwards forecast of +15.1% shows that in the UK at least, companies are realising the value that immersing customers in unique experiences can have on forging lasting connections and loyalty. Whether brands continue this investment throughout 2024 remains to be seen but these figures paint an encouraging picture that the segment’s positive momentum will continue.”

Guy Murphy, Co-founder of OSSA

“Big UK companies are ramping up marketing spend to the highest levels in a decade, signalling confidence amid economic uncertainty. But what about the smaller organisations and brands? SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy, representing 95% of businesses and half of GDP yet, their voices are missing in this narrative of optimism. These smaller brands must juggle rising costs, intense competition and the challenge of growing their name, so it’s high time we turn our attention to their struggles and celebrate their successes. After all, their growth isn’t just good business — it’s fundamental to the UK’s long-term economic health.”