“This isn’t the time for business as usual”: 50 marketers and their insights on the latest outlook for marketing spend and direction

After the Bellwether report confirms a slowdown in marketing budget growth and a stagnant forecast for next year, marketers name possible green shoots still available and advise on how to make every bit of your spend count.

Yesterday’s IPA Bellwether report sparked little surprise, but confirmed that marketing budget growth is slowing. Yet with the IPA asserting that any recession we see will be short lived, it’s clear that the direction of travel is not to put the brakes on marketing investment.

Our round-up of reaction from the industry’s big hitters offers both warnings to act now in the face of shoring up the most efficient and measurable marketing strategies, but hope and positivity for the opportunities that exist to avoid a business as usual approach.

“Marketing directors need to hold the line, maintain, and if possible, accelerate”

Patrick Mazzotta, Managing Director, Data, Analytics and Insight, What’s Possible Group: “For every business decreasing their marketing spend, there will be an opportunistic competitor eating their lunch. There's a lot of speculation around economic effects of government policies and we're seeing the market react quickly to announcements like the mini budget. But with the daily U-turns on these policies, businesses are barely able to keep up, bringing a lot of volatility into Q4. Big corporations could be slowed down by bureaucratic budget planning processes while the more dynamic brands can be nimbler, take advantage and find opportunities for more growth.

“My advice: stay calm and keep a cool head. Looking at macro trends in the market is only helpful if you have a competitive scenario planning framework (i.e., game theory) to plug that data into. Otherwise, it's more likely you'll just end up a lemming following the other lemmings off a cliff.”

Paul Coggins, CEO and Co-Founder, Adludio: “All eyes must be on 2023, and marketing directors at premium brands need to hold the line, maintain and, if possible, accelerate their branding activity – the interest amongst marketers within the report, in boosting brand visibility through digital channels, suggests that they are doing this already.

“Performance marketing spend achieves the best results when you have consumers placed into the top end of the marketing funnel, through creative-led branding activity. There are technologies which can help here, ensuring this creative is deterministically-directed and results-driven. For example, solutions which utilise historical creative data and AI-led insights can deliver immersive campaigns which entice users, and are shown to enhance engagement levels at the top of the funnel dramatically. These brand experiences will be the ones that are remembered once the hard times are past.”

Sophie Wooller Dent, Director of Digital Transformation, Croud: “Such high inflation means that people are thinking more than ever about where their money goes – on both sides of the coin. Marketers are going to be more concerned about the efficacy of campaigns and where they spend the budgets they have.

“Agencies therefore have to offer strong measurement solutions to show clients how their investments are making an impact and evidence how important it is to keep investing in marketing. Similarly, brands have to offer something special to really capture their target audience.

“It’s time to think outside the box and deliver marketing that offers something genuinely useful to the consumer in their day to day lives. This is central to maintaining a positive perception of a brand and growing throughout the next quarter and beyond.”

“Addressable, accountable and measurable results”

Lauren Tiley, VP of Client Development, Permutive: “As consumers increasingly opt out of their data being collected and used for hyper-targeting and tracking by third parties, resulting in just 30% of the open web being addressable, brands that want to reach their audiences must stop working against consumer choice and start investing responsibly.

“This means scaling their data by working directly with publishers’ first-party, non-personally identifiable, consented data. This way, brands can reach audiences across all environments without identifying individuals and compromising their privacy, while ensuring media investment is working harder during a time of recession.”

Michael Nevins, CMO, Equativ: “The industry needs to start living with ambiguity. To borrow from post-pandemic discussions around the new normal, marketers must get used to a much faster rate of change in audience behaviour and move nimbly with economic shifts. Doing so will mean improving their ability to understand and adapt to in-the-moment situations. Strategies and spending plans must be aligned with what consumers want right now and which channels are driving the greatest ROI. And as third-party data signals continue to fade, making better use of developments in contextual targeting, seller-defined audiences, and tapping first-party data to inform their activities will be crucial, as will forging more direct ties with increasingly powerful publishers.”

Justine O’Neill, Senior Director, Analytic Partners: “Marketing is always a business driver, but we understand that everyone wants to get bang for their buck. The best way to do this is to ‘scenario plan’ at every stage, using data that can quantify the impacts of reducing, maintaining or even increasing marketing budgets. No one can really predict the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on purchasing power, so it is vital that companies stand firm and look at the data.

“It is promising to see organisations planning to boost their brand visibility, concurring with our biggest piece of advice in recession planning – prioritise brand over performance marketing. Our most recent report found that brand activities are 80% more likely to be successful than performance messaging. Plus, brand marketing actually has a transferrable impact on performance too.”

Matt Andrew, Partner and UK Managing Director, Ekimetrics: “Marketers are grappling with a lot right now. Increasing and significant economic turbulence is compounded by the fallout of cookie deprecation – and the implications this has on their targeting and measurement solutions – as well as juggling sustainability and having to make decisions that balance commercial success with the needs of the planet.

“My advice, throughout all of this, is not to lose sight of longer-term objectives, and not to cut back on the strategic programmes that could unlock both understanding and driving performance in multiple dimensions. Long-term data transformation or forward-looking media mix optimisation (MMO) in-housing projects especially will help provide the groundwork for an organisational culture of decisions driven by data – a culture that embraces real insights like where to direct budget or which activities to continue to invest in.

“Budget switches are often driven by short-termism, but as with COVID, the key to working through tumultuous periods is for brands to focus on agility and clarity in their insight. This will imbue confidence in their decision making so they can chart a course where prudence doesn’t equate to poorer ROI.”

Vihan Sharma, Executive Vice President Global Sales and MD of Europe, LiveRamp: “Marketers should get creative with their investments this quarter, using this time effectively to interrogate their current media strategies and work closely with their partners to locate cost efficiencies. This includes basing budget allocation on achieving real business outcomes, in addressable, accountable and measurable results. Indeed, with the resilient growth of digital marketing budgets reported for Q3, it is imperative that addressable data is being activated across all these channels. Particularly on those which are developing rapidly, like mobile, search, Connected TV and cloud.

“Marketers who successfully implement ‘people-based’ measurement solutions here, which leverage privacy-compliant, first-party data, and which provide insight across all omnichannel marketing activities, will be best able to stay connected with their high value audience segments. At a time when consumers are looking for more thoughtful experiences from brands, this opens up significant opportunities to strengthen customer loyalty, and increase market share.”

“This is not the time to hoard data and double down on old strategies”

Marianne Yallop, Global Head of Client Services, Redmill Solutions: “As the cost of living crisis bites and marketing budgets slow, advertisers need to think carefully about how they use creative in Christmas campaigns. Brands with big budgets that will have likely created ads months ago should be especially sensitive to consumer spending sentiment, and cautious not to be seen as blowing hard cash. Budgets need to be kept under control, with gimmicky but costly campaigns running the risk of alienating consumers.

“Advertising is all about trust, and this year in particular the line between gaining a close customer relationship and being patronising will become thinner than before. To avoid upsetting consumers, brands need real-time campaign media data in order to know exactly where their spend is headed, pivot campaigns to be more effective, and ultimately, aid in marketing decision making”.

Alison Harding, VP of Data Solutions, EMEA, Lotame: “It’s no surprise that advertising budgets are under scrutiny as the recession goes from likely to confirmed. We’re seeing data buyers take a quality over quantity approach, suggesting that marketers are pruning their budgets with clippers rather than a chainsaw, which is the sensible approach in an economic downturn. There’s ample opportunity for advertisers to make a splash in H2, with events such as the World Cup sure to attract mammoth spend, which has been reflected in our data with ticket sales a leading audience segment.

“This is not the time to hoard data and double down on old strategies. Brand loyalties can’t be depended on in a price-conscious market, and the next best customer might not be found where marketers might typically expect. To stay afloat in these choppy waters, they must look beyond their first-party data and find ways to overlay outside insights to enrich their knowledge of both their known and unknown audiences and move quickly on new opportunities these insights reveal.”

Csaba Szabo, EMEA Managing Director, Integral Ad Science: “With this year’s holiday period coinciding with the FIFA World Cup, brands must continue to optimise and make the most of their advertising efforts. The nature of these mass events – especially with the controversial issues surrounding the Qatar World Cup – can be tough to negotiate for global brands.

“Marketers should consider contextual targeting if they are to negotiate this global media landscape and ensure maximum consumer attention and ROI on their spend. Not only will this ensure consumers are reached in relevant environments, but brands can avoid unsafe content.

Simon Wardropper, CEO, Realtime Agency: “The first thing to note is that marketers of everyday goods may not see as severe of an impact on results as marketers of simple luxuries or non-essentials.

“Rather than cut budgets, which often can have a disproportionately negative impact on algorithm efficiencies, share of voice, and business revenue, we’d instead recommend restructuring spend and pacing. For instance, the World Cup is set to overlap with Black Friday and holiday shopping periods this year – three very expensive times to advertise. If you can afford to scale down during these hot periods, front-load budgets prior to these events, or even reserve until Q1, do so.

“Measurement will also be massively important here for marketers. Cookie-based attribution modelling is progressively becoming more unreliable and can lead to ill-informed placement of budget due to incomplete data sets. We would recommend testing a non-cookie-reliant attribution method now, such as marketing mix modelling, to ensure you’re best placing your brand to see high returns on investment.”

Helen Spencer, Planning Director, Strat House: “When any economic crisis hits, particularly a recession, marketing budgets are typically the first to be reassessed and pulled back. But, as the evidence from previous periods of uncertainty has taught us, those who have kept calm and carried on investing in their brand will undoubtedly benefit in the long-term.

“With the World Cup and Christmas, it’s going to be an even busier ‘golden’ Q4 quarter for brands and an even more important time to showcase brand value. So, having a clear marketing strategy, with target channels, will be imperative to managing spend wisely and implementing it effectively. Rather than further growth in Q4, we may see brands push their budgets into Q1 as they continue to assess the economic situation.”

Clare Dove, UK Group Commercial Director, Future: “While it’s understandable that brands are becoming more cautious, our own data shows there is quiet optimism among consumers, with anticipation ahead of Black Friday and Christmas growing every day.

“Consumers are looking forward to Christmas advertising that is celebrational, and offers practical tips and family-focussed messaging. This underlying feeling of positivity means there are still plenty of opportunities for advertisers. However, it will be down to marketers to find key high intent audiences to drive ROI.

“Premium publishers whose audiences are looking for trusted content to help inform their purchase decisions will supply brands with the data they need to tap consumers' interests and passions.”

Emma Lacey, SVP EMEA, Zefr: “Brands are more cautious over their budgets during uncertain economic times. However, with major tentpole moments such as the golden quarter of retail and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar ahead, advertisers are aligning with video to achieve scale and drive brand relevance in order to stay front of mind.

“Placing ads adjacent to content which resonates strongly with audiences is crucial. Consumers at scale are looking to platforms like YouTube, Meta and TikTok for high quality content that is diverse in subject and tone. As a result, minimising unwanted alignment with misinformation or fake news is crucial to maintaining consumer relationships and loyalty at a time when they themselves are pulling back on spending.”

“Customers will only buy if they’re convinced”

Justin Pahl, CEO, VMLY&R London: “It’s clear that we’ve hopped out of the frying pan and into the fire. As the latest IPA Bellwether report points to, we are seeing the real financial repercussions of an economic environment that strikes fear into every finance department. But as consumers tighten their purse strings, it is more important than ever that our industry faces this fear head on.

“Consumers are tightening their purse strings in the face of incredible hardship, but this doesn’t mean our industry should pull down the shutters. We need to come together with our creative superpower and make our budgets, although inevitably squeezed, work as hard as they can to make a tangible difference through the products and messages we create.”

Celine Saturnino, COO, Total Media: “Household budgets are tightening, and advertisers are naturally nervous about what this means for their brands. However, times of crisis actually make people more willing to change habits.

“A cognitive bias known as the Habit Discontinuity Hypothesis is more prevalent during times of societal stress. This means it’s actually easier to persuade consumers to switch brands or impulse buy – but relevance to them is key thanks to heightened stress and impatience. I would urge advertisers not to cut budgets but to focus on priming audiences to make purchasing decisions via relevant targeting, while creating positive experiences for customers during these difficult times.

Mateusz Jędrocha, Head of Upper Funnel Solutions Development, RTB House: “There’s no avoiding the fact that consumers are cautious about spending. For brands this means serving users relevant ads when they are open to them, and this has never been so important. To reach the right individuals on the right channel with truly personalised ads, brands need to invest in technology that understands exactly which product a user is most likely to be interested in and when. And in the lead up to Christmas, when consumers might spend considerably more time browsing before making a purchase, brands need to integrate tech that effectively personalises retargeting, without it becoming irritating to shoppers.

“Deep Learning offers a solution. The best-in-class technology can hyper-target and tailor ads on the open internet, without the need for cookies. This tech goes far beyond what is possible with human hands to significantly maximise the value of each ad impression and bring optimism back to marketers during the crucial Q4 period.”

Faye Daffarn, Managing Director, Tug Agency: “In a time of economic downturn, consumers are naturally more selective with where they spend their hard earned pounds. Because of this, building a relationship with consumers and fostering brand loyalty is key to influencing purchasing decisions. During this time, rather than ceasing advertising activities, brands should invest in marketing activities that align with their consumers’ values.

“8 in 10 British consumers have become increasingly concerned about environmental issues, while over two-thirds of Brits pay attention to the sustainability and environmental efforts of retail brands. Promoting your company’s ESG efforts can draw consumers and boost sales. However, brands need to ensure their advertising claims can be backed up with action – planet-conscious consumers are now more inclined to scrutinise green claims and hold companies accountable.”

Charlie Johnson, VP International, Digital Element: “Usually, Q4 would be a time of high spending for both brands and consumers, but in response to the cost-of-living crisis, many are squeezing their budgets for all their worth as revenue drops. Customers will only buy if they’re absolutely convinced, which makes relevant online ads and a positive customer experience a priority.

“While many businesses might be cutting their spend, now is time to invest in both communications and technology to get ahead of competitors. This puts innovative tools that provide quality data at the top of the list, to help businesses optimise where possible and provide proof of ROI. With contextual targeting a huge contender in a privacy-first advertising space, IP data can be invaluable when it comes to user insights such as geolocation and connection data.”

Inken Kuhlmann-Rhinow, Senior Marketing Director, EMEA, HubSpot: “Sluggish ad spend reflects the cost of living squeeze being felt across the board. It’s encouraging that spending has just slowed and not disappeared altogether. Ad spend remains a key area for business growth and is vital for maintaining strong customer relations – and knowledge of what makes the customer tick underpins this.

“Getting to know your customer and providing them with a seamless journey from start to finish is what will keep them returning and recommending. But it is increasingly difficult to capture their attention within a flooded market of brands fighting for focus. Advertisers have a tricky but not insurmountable task ahead and putting in the work to invest in your customer relationships means you are investing in your company too.”

Paul Lowrey, Director of Strategy, Insights and Marketing at Azerion: “Audience behaviour and consumer spending is changing rapidly so if brands are to respond and maximise their marketing performance with ongoing budget cuts, a greater focus on securing ‘value’ beyond the transactional media investment will help. “As such, our concept of value needs to move beyond ‘price’ to greater recognition of how media partners can help advertisers understand audiences all the way through to how we creatively engage with them. Increased collaboration of expertise and knowledge alongside the transactional product investment will be crucial to delivering the brand performance all advertisers need.”

“CTV is an area of digital video that marketers should pay close attention to”

Adam Chorley, COO, Alkimi Exchange: “This isn’t the time for business as usual. As the digital ads industry rushes to the World Cup to rescue their Q4 revenues from the recession, agile and adaptable marketers can differentiate their strategies with Web3 technology and platforms. Want to build deeper connections with your customer base? Develop NFT reward programs. Need to reduce programmatic overhead? Turn to decentralised ad exchanges. Keen to engage with the Gen-Z audience? Find them in the metaverse. Marketers who explore these new frontiers will discover cost savings, access to untapped audiences, and gain first-mover advantage in a highly competitive marketing landscape.”

Matt White, VP EMEA at Quantcast: “Given the current economic climate, many will be surprised to see that advertising spend has increased yet again. It’s often not as simple as marketing and advertising teams switching off activity when times are tight though, as we’ve seen here. Some will see times of turmoil as an opportunity to double down on investment to stay ahead of the competition, while others will no doubt have started booking in their campaigns for the FIFA World Cup coming up in Q4.

“The number one reason ad spend has increased again is aligned to the TV market – and in particular, CTV. During the cost of living crisis, people throughout the UK will have made a concerted effort to enjoy quiet nights-in to save for more difficult times ahead. Simultaneously, CTV offers the viewer more content than ever before. With increased content comes cheaper advertising rates, which then drives more investment. All ships rise and advertising teams are taking advantage.”

Phil Duffield, VP UK at The Trade Desk: “There’s no doubt that consumers are re-evaluating their spending, but brands need to recognise the opportunity this presents. Whilst there might be more competition to capture consumer attention, this makes it all the more important for marketers to invest in growing their brand visibility. Marketers across all sectors need to implement tailored advertising strategies to keep their brand light burning. Each interaction counts, so using insight to ensure you have the right message, and are amplifying it in the right channel is critical.

“Take streaming for example – despite more consumers planning on cutting back on streaming services, our recent research revealed over half of Brits are open to a free or cheaper service that is fully or partially funded by advertising. So whilst fears of a recession might be growing, consumers are just as, if not more willing, to engage with advertisements.”

Emre Fadillioglu, CEO, Storyly: “One notable area of continued growth is video. This is being driven by continued format innovation. In 2022, eMarketer announced that time spent on TikTok exceeded YouTube for the first time, at over 45 minutes per day. Closely followed by Instagram Stories, YouTube Shorts, and Snapchat Spotlight, amongst others, this explosion in short-form content has driven brands to re-evaluate how video is incorporated into their marketing strategies.

“When everyone can now be a creator, it is not enough to rely simply on a linear broadcast of a branded message. Many brands are looking to introduce user-generated video into their own digital experiences, with the aim of spotting and capitalising on their next micro-influencer. Others are leveraging the continued innovations in the video format, with interactive overlays, shoppable experiences, and gamification all adding to the branded video experience.

“Audio-visual marketing may have started in TV, but with the continued growth and innovation in online video revealed in the IPA Bellwether report we can be sure it will remain one of the dominant marketing channels for a long time to come.

Hunain Khan, Director, Programmatic CTV Supply, Xandr: “CTV is an area of digital video that marketers should pay close attention to. With economic uncertainty a reality for UK consumers, households who have multiple subscriptions might be looking to consolidate their TV viewing into one provider or to move their subscription into the AVOD format. In this scenario, free-to-view AVOD services are a good place to pick up new viewers, and so these publishers have an opportunity to establish themselves as effective media partners for brand advertisers.

“Investing in channels like CTV allows marketers to target specific segmented audiences, allowing brands to maximise their ad spend at a time when it matters most.”

Stefanie Briec, Director, Head of Demand Sales UK and International, AudienceXpress at FreeWheel: “Brands are planning to maintain their market presence and not ‘go dark’, but they will be selective about how they connect with desired audiences. With UK marketing respondents in a recent AudienceXpress survey ranking connected TV the best advanced TV channel for brand building, and video on demand the best value for money, it’s likely these channels will continue to attract ad spend.

“What’s more, audience adoption of free ad-supported Advanced TV channels in particular could grow as UK households cut paid-for subscriptions due to the cost-of-living crisis. As premium video environments, these ad-funded channels enable marketers to deliver cost-effective, high impact campaigns to the most relevant viewers, thereby supporting current brand priorities.”

Sarah Rew, Senior Director, Global Marketing, LoopMe: “Netflix’s introduction of a cheaper, ad-supported tier next month shows that companies are working hard to appeal to money-conscious consumers as inflation bites. Our own research recently revealed that 81% of UK consumers claim not to subscribe to video streaming services, with 45% citing affordability as the main reason they would unsubscribe.

“As consumers respond to the cost of living crisis, marketers must remain agile – using granular, real-time campaign insights to inform in-the-moment decisions.. By identifying their most valuable channels and adjusting spend accordingly, marketers can not only target the right audiences at the right times, but also reduce wasted spend and optimise ROI.”

Harry Williams, Senior Marketing Manager, A Million Ads: “Whilst it’s disheartening to see that main media marketing budgets – which includes radio – have fallen for the first time since Q1 2021, this decrease was only mild overall, indicative of a cautious reduction amid rising risks to the UK economy.

“Understandably, brands will now be wanting to work with partners who can build brand awareness whilst driving clear ROI and getting the most bang for their buck. And this is where digital audio can take centre stage by utilising techniques such as addressable advertising, thus bridging the gap between data and creativity.

“In fact, as one of the fastest growing advertising mediums, digital audio is consistently innovating to ensure new trends are accommodated. For example, it’s now possible to create ads that do not simply just target consumers with products and services but are actively using data available to make the consumer’s decisions easier. And this is why I predict 2023 will be a bumper year for the channel.”

Michal Marcinik, CEO & Co-Founder, AdTonos: “As expected, the cost-of-living crisis and inflation are impacting both marketing budgets and the industry's outlook on the future. However, it is worth noting that investing in smart communications efforts in tough times can give players a competitive edge, especially if they focus on increasing value and enhancing strategies.

“Companies that avoid cutting their advertising budgets throughout a recession often come out on top, boosting margins and driving revenue, and it is this kind of forethought that leaders need to keep in mind. Now, where this money goes is more important than ever, and brands need to have reliable, effective solutions.”

Anthony Lamy, VP EMEA Client Partners, VidMob: “With companies upwardly revising their available spend on video advertising, it's clear that generating meaningful brand visibility in this space is a priority. However, efficiency is still key; tweaking campaign setup, bid management and audience targeting will only take brands so far.

“Companies have two options today: stick to the status quo and keep their creative production process as it is, or start using data in order to truly increase their creative impact. With access to real-time, data-driven insights, marketers can make decisions based on how each creative element of their campaign is performing, make suitable adjustments to optimise it, and even experiment with their content with very little risk, but huge benefits.”

“There’s a data emergency unfolding in front of marketers’ eyes”

Raman Sidhu, SVP, EMEA Sales and Global Partnerships, Verve Group: “The glass is neither half full or half empty. As cookies and identifiers disappear, ad budgets are being reallocated to partners that drive marketing outcomes without cookies and identifiers. This opens the door for technologists to unearth new and different solutions to help brands embrace the future now. Getting on that bandwagon will help get those brands ahead of the curve.

Gabrielle Stafford, CMO, Supermetrics: “Enormous marketing budgets solve a lot of problems but whenever economic turmoil hits, marketers across both large and small brands are desperate to explore the ways to get more bang for their buck. However, as the IPA has previously warned, marketers must be cautious of pulling back on spend as it can often do more harm than good. While overall marketing spend is set to grow – albeit at a slower level – this is still encouraging reading (at least for now), but it requires brand consistency and presence across all channels. And usually, this doesn’t equate to dropping budgets, but maintaining or increasing them, particularly in periods of economic downturn.

“That’s why it’s important to let data-driven insights drive the marketing plan. For instance, marketers should always study the demographics of each channel’s audience and match their customer avatar or persona with their knowledge of the major advertising and social channels. Having these sorts of insights in the toolbox is what allows brands to understand what customers want and the kind of content that engages them. Such an approach can anticipate customer needs or challenges and pivot accordingly, putting brands ahead of competitors when budgets are tight in time for the festive season.”

Andrew Stephenson, Director of Marketing EMEA and India, Treasure Data: “There is a data emergency unfolding in front of marketers’ eyes. As the price of energy soars, economic uncertainty runs rampant and the cost-of-living crisis weakens consumers’ purchasing power, it’s now well-documented that shoppers will be making tough decisions on which products are deemed essential. Brands lacking a sophisticated data strategy will have little visibility of whether their consumers are about to leave them on the shelf – or how effective their campaigns are proving.

“And with budgets in most marketing spend categories shrinking, this data is even more crucial so marketers can make the right choices about how to prioritise the budget they have. First-party data – if actionable and efficient – is a lifeline for brands looking to maintain brand awareness and properly connect with their customers at this critical time.

“Marketers must act now and ensure they have a comprehensive data management strategy in place that combines all data sources – online and offline. This is the only way to guarantee that they’re not sleepwalking into a data crisis.”

Lucia Mastromauro, Managing Director UK, Acceleration: “Despite the challenging times, brands recognise the value of continuing their marketing efforts. To make best use of their budgets they will need to adopt an always-on transformation approach to advance their digital maturity, making effective use of data and experimentation to allow their organisation to be agile, do more with less, and deliver measurable business results as the market evolves.”

Lloyd Davies, Managing Director, Making Science UK: “The need to demonstrate successful efficiencies going forward has never been more apparent. We’re going to see a period of introspection as marketers ensure their house is in order to give them the best possible chance of riding out recent economic turbulence and the next stage of the slowdown.

“However, our recent research showed that nearly two-thirds of UK brands are under-utilising their marketing data, by focusing on high-level, general activations instead of more sophisticated techniques such as prediction and audience insights. With this limited approach, many marketers are wasting budget and missing the benefits of their initial investments.

“To make sure every penny is invested with a laser focus on ROI, marketers should prioritise assessing their data activation strategies and consider more advanced analytics tools to make the most informed marketing decisions based on their data.”

Tony Ayaz, CEO at Scuba Analytics: “No matter the size of their budget, businesses need to be laser focused on maximising the return on their spend. This requires being able to accurately measure marketing performance across channels so that they can double down on the efforts that are making an impact. Additionally, to deliver the personalisation customers expect that will then drive growth and retention they need to be able to unify their data across all channels. Having access to advanced analytics that can provide continuous customer insights based on real-time data will be critical to helping marketers achieve these goals.”

Harriet Durnford-Smith, CMO, Adverity: “While it is positive to see marketing budgets are still growing, the fact they are growing at the slowest rate since during the pandemic is not surprising. Ultimately this means that marketing budgets are going to have to work harder at achieving business goals. At the same time, the cost of living crisis means that customers are being more selective about where and when they spend their money. This means more than ever, businesses need to be getting the right message to the right people in the right place at the right time. You cannot do this based on gut feeling. This starts and ends with data. Businesses need to integrate all of their data from sales, marketing, and inventory to get the insights they need over business and campaign performance to navigate any uncertain period of uncertainty.”

Anastasia Leng, CEO and Founder, CreativeX: “One would be forgiven for assuming marketers are doing everything to make the most of their spend but the reality is quite the opposite: marketers are wasting millions in ineffective advertising spend by running tens of thousands of ads with a low creative quality score. “The reason is simple: thanks to the rise of visually led platforms like TikTok and YouTube, not to mention the onslaught of programmatic video, most brands have scaled content production volume 5-10x in the last few years yet haven’t sufficiently adapted their processes to revamp how they create, adapt, review, measure and learn from all their visual marketing.

“The result? Over 70% of Fortune 500 images and videos produced are not in line with basic creative ‘first principles’, whether that’s consistent logo usage, product framing, usage of supers and subtitles and more. Together, these principles make up something called the Creative Quality Score, a KPI that has been statistically linked to improved media efficiency, like cheaper CPMs and cost-per-completed view, not to mention higher ROAS. We can cut our budgets and accept that we will just do less, or we can take this opportunity to explore whether now is the time to try doing things differently.”

Nick Reid, SVP and Managing Director EMEA, DoubleVerify: “There is never a time where responsible investment and the return on that investment is not important. But at this time of economic uncertainty, advertisers and marketers are challenged to make sure they are not only able to measure the impact of their digital investment, but to optimise the performance of their campaigns based on those metrics.

“Maintaining brand equity and avoiding media wastage – all in a privacy-friendly way – is key. Looking towards the future, effectively capturing and measuring consumer attention and understanding how this drives outcomes for brands, will be paramount. IPA Bellwether’s data only reinforces the need to secure consumer attention at scale, helping advertisers get bang for their stretched ad buck.”

Matt Nash, UK Managing Director, Scibids: “While 2023 will likely be another challenging year, we can still expect smart companies that offer innovative products and services that deliver real value to grow. Indeed, as we saw during the pandemic, brands and agencies will be looking to partners who can help them become more efficient, by helping under pressure teams cope and thrive, as well as be effective. In turn this will ensure they are delivering outcomes that are truly aligned with business needs.

“To achieve this, it means understanding what drives results and, in particular, how brands can view the correlation between media and sales performance with greater precision. By doing so, this will improve efficiency and best prepare businesses to grow, even through a likely recession.“

“If a new channel is to succeed, publishers need to forge close relationships with their audience”

Gustav Westman, CEO and Founder, BrightBid: “Creating room in shrinking budgets for greater brand investment to keep the taps on requires a rethink of performance spend. Google Search remains crucial for many marketing teams due to its ability to drive high intent leads and sales and great measurability in the short term.

“Brands that are able to leverage automated AI technologies to distil key insights from first- and third-party data will see improved performance without additional investment in PPC enabling them to fund top of funnel activity to continue to grow over the longer term.

Nicole Lonsdale, Chief Client Officer, Kinetic Worldwide: “The Q3 decline is not surprising as we’ve seen a reduction in spend from Motors to promote new registrations, a decrease in FinTech brands due to the increase in interest rates and a lack of big-ticket movie releases. The passing of the Queen also reduced spend in OOH, as many brands avoided public advertising during September.

“That being said, we’re predicting further growth as we move into 2023, more than recouping much of the lost budgets from the pandemic. OOH continues to offer brands more than it ever has, driven by digitisation, automation and real time data usage. With its breadth of creative opportunities, having the highest reach of commercial channels and great social credentials (with 50% of revenues going back to local councils, community and environmental projects), we’re expecting OOH to be back on top form before long.”

Elliott Millard, Head of Planning, Wavemaker UK: "With TV bearing the brunt of rampant media inflation, it may not be surprising to see budgets shifted around here. However, it feels like an oversight that the likes of press and OOH are experiencing harder declines than others, despite both being scaled, public touchpoints that can act as reassurance in difficult times.

“It’s a trend that we’ve also seen in Wavemaker’s Media Mix Navigator, which allows brands and agencies to interrogate optimum media mixes. It raises warning signs that some brands are shifting to short-termism. Channels like press, for example, look to be disinvested in by the industry artificially fast. It’s not always the wrong thing to do, but there is also risk in over-investing at the bottom of the purchase funnel. Once a brand's credentials have slipped, it becomes more expensive to rebuild them.

“For savvy brands (with means), there is also an opportunity here. There is a cost advantage to be had in underused space. Bearing in mind that OOH is currently an attractive option for bargain hunters as is, UK outdoor advertising prices have fallen by 3.1% since pre-COVID times. Additionally, exploiting the channels others are not present in will likely give brands a leg up against their competition."

Sivan Tafla, CEO, Total Media Solutions: “Gloomy economic horizons will have publishers working harder than ever to diversify their revenue streams and lessen their reliance on tightening ad budgets. Whether audio, video, subscriptions or e-commerce, publishers cannot just dive headfirst into these new ventures. Requiring huge amounts of money, time, and labour to implement, they need to be certain they’re headed in the right direction.

“If a new channel is to succeed, publishers need to focus on quality and forge close relationships with their audience. First-party data is invaluable in building the trust between audience and publisher, while allowing for more tailored, valuable content. An effective first party data strategy needs to be top priority for every publisher.”

Ronny Golan, CEO and Co-Founder, ViewersLogic: “Brands of all sizes are feeling the squeeze and today’s TV advertising environment isn’t doing marketers any favours. Cross-media campaign effectiveness is still measured through fusing siloed demographic data sets that produce inaccurate correlations. Simplistic measures such as reach and frequency are used as proxies for success; this tells brands nothing about the influence their TV campaign had on hard business metrics such as sales, footfall, account openings and app instals.

“While this methodology used to be state of the art, today, it is unfit for purpose. In any other industry, being unable to accurately quantify success would not be tolerated. To combat this challenge and create TV campaigns that deliver ROI as we head further into uncertain times, brands need single-source data to enable them to clearly understand how their TV advertising campaigns impact actual consumer behaviour and prove effectiveness.”

Zuzanna Gierlinska, Managing Director, Xaxis UK: “Given the compounding pressures on marketers to drive efficiency and results, applying an omnichannel approach to eliminate siloed channel performance, and a test-and-learn mindset to media investment has become crucial. Now, more than ever, marketers should be leaning into tools like programmatic to de-risk their investments through guaranteed media and business outcomes.”

Rob Smith, Growth Director, Incubeta: “For finance companies looking to promote robust financial planning, now is the time to invest in brand visibility with around two-thirds of UK residents stating raising prices as their top concern this winter. To achieve this, it’s important for brands to instil confidence in their consumers. This is done via the promotion of reliable and effective products, a privacy-first approach to data collection, and upholding a customer-first strategy to consumers at the heart of the business.”

Andy Ashley, Global Marketing Director, SmartFrame Technologies: “Brands and agencies need partners that are versatile, can cover a lot of ground, and truly drive value. In the wake of cookie deprecation, this means nailing contextual and being able to provide proof of ROI, as well as focusing on transparency and clarity throughout the whole supply chain. Eye-catching visuals and effective ad placements are more important than ever when budgets are squeezed, and we need solutions that can deliver on both to drive ad success.”

Rik Moore, Managing Partner of Strategy, The Kite Factory: “The key watchword off the back of this Q3 2022 IPA Bellwether report is ‘navigation’. The challenges the report highlights are large across the ‘Threats’ verbatims from panellists. However, there is nuance here, and some green shoots to recognise – be that encouraging renewed interest in eco-friendly and energy saving products, through to continued growth in online and video advertising, plus resurgence in the events sector.

“This is where ‘navigation’ comes in – if we can help clients identify and turn those green shoots, wherever relevant, into new opportunities and competitive advantage, this will contribute to their ability to weather the storm and come out the other side stronger.”