Latest Bellwether report shows 2.1% growth in event marketing budgets

Marketing budgets are showing growth in Q2, including event marketing, according to the latest IPA Bellwether Report 2017.

The latest data showed that over 28% of the survey panel recorded an upward revision to marketing budgets, compared to around 15% that recorded a fall. The resulting net balance of +13.1% was up from Q1 2017’s +11.8% and the best recorded since Q3 2016.

More companies are expanding their marketing budgets than reducing them, according to the new report published this week.

Events budgets recorded a +2.1% growth and have now increased in each of the past 15 quarters, the survey found.

Direct marketing and market research recorded falls in budgets, meanwhile, as did sales promotions, although main media advertising showed an upward revision to budgets of +9.8%. The most impressive increase came in internet marketing, where budgets soared on a net balance of +22.7%, the highest reading since Q3 2007.

PR budgets were also up an average 2.1% on the quarter.

However, there has also been an upturn in general uncertainty following the general election and Brexit, the report finds.

Over 26% of the Bellwether panel signalled a reduction in optimism compared to three months ago, when considering the financial prospects for their industry (14% indicated more confidence). The net balance of -12.6% was the second lowest reading in four-and-a-half years.

Bellwether said it expected adspend to rise by just 0.6% in real terms during 2017 and a stagnation in 2018. A recovery was then anticipated in 2019 and 2020, with adspend rising 1.8% and 2.3% respectively.

Paul Smith, senior economist at HIS Markit and author of the Bellwether Report, said: “The survey continues to perfectly encapsulate the present economic situation presiding in the UK. Current economic conditions are sufficiently strong enough to support higher sales and demand, encouraging firms to provide product support through ongoing marketing budget expansion.

“However, the uncertainty caused by Brexit and a surprising general election outcome are skewing risks to future growth broadly to the downside, resulting in subdued financial prospects, both at the company and wider macro levels.”

Simon Boniface (pictured), creative director at FreemanXP EMEA, told CN: “The results of the latest Bellwether Report are fairly typical of uncertain times — they can prompt marketers to re-allocate their budgets to focus on digital, as it’s an agile channel that can react quickly to change.

“That being said, it’s positive that event spend continues to rise. Events are arguably the oldest and most enduring form of marketing: the idea that people come together to learn about and then buy products is as relevant today as it was two hundred years ago. I have no doubt that event budgets will not only continue to rise, but increase more significantly in the future.

“The rise in digital spend offers a huge opportunity for events, as today our clients seek to create seamless online/offline experiences that are mutually beneficial. In B2B events, digital is vital in driving people to participate through email marketing, paid social and SEO, enhancing the event experience through apps, and collecting data to evaluate the experience for the next year.

“In my opinion B2C events have led the way by embracing the millennial theory of ‘picture or it didn’t happen’. Digital is only engaging if there’s good content and live brand experiences are the perfect way to generate stories that can live online beyond the event.

“Events increasingly rely on digital but inversely digital needs events and the rise in spend by brands highlights a great opportunity for our industry.”

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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