Balls. The little black ram in the latest TV ad for the VW T-Roc certainly has a pair.
This plucky ovine overcomes challenges from a bull and a sheep-dog as he leads his flock of white sheep. Until he’s forced to give way when a car shows up on a country road.
Apposite symbolism. The UK advertising industry has just confronted the latest data on the challenges it faces when the IPA (the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) released its Bellwether report on brand marketers’ expenditure.
A bellwether is a bell-wearing ram that ancient shepherds would choose to lead their flock. But unlike our ballsy VW hero, the bellwether male was castrated.
While times might be tough for some sections of the UK marketing industry, they are not quite that bad!
Yet the story told by the IPA Bellwether is mixed.
Only a net 8.6% of brand marketers reported increasing their budgets in the last quarter of 2017. This was because while 23.9 % said they had raised spending, 15.2% said they had shorn them back.
Looking ahead to 2018/2019, 38% of marketers forecast increasing spend, with another 15% looking at chops. This suggests a meaty net 23% uplift, but it’s not assured.
As most of the clients we represent at Propeller operate in the advertising and marketing sectors, I’ve been looking at the reasons behind the mixed results.
It’s not so much the Brexit outcome that spooks people, but the boggy ground getting there. Many brands delayed or cut spending due to uncertainty caused by negotiations, at their height during Q4. Caution will continue during 2018.
The optimists, however, cited more foreign spending and retail tourism caused by the weaker pound.
The EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) arrives on 25 May and is another hurdle for marketers shepherding their flock of brands to lush pastures.
The new rules force organisations to obtain customer approval before collecting, storing and using their data and will cause pain for some companies. But it might give compliant and creative digital marketers new opportunities for personalised advertising. It’s also resulted in a likely increase in direct marketing budgets, where it is easier to comply.
PR, my own sector, forecasts a modest rise in 2018 (4.3%) but was the biggest loser in Q4 17 with a 6.6% chop.
But PR needs some PR here.
PR companies (like mine) increasingly offer services beyond traditional media relations, such as content creation, events and social media.
So it could be that some monies flowing their way are being ascribed to other categories by multi-channel marketers who are more interested in the quality of the marketing idea than who had it.
And with uncertainties ahead, it will be the brave marketers that win. They just need the one thing that the bold ram in the VW advert has that the old bellwether sheep had lost.
Alright, two things.