AA/Warc Report: Opportunities Wave a Welcome Flag Amid Economic Turmoil

As a recovering UK economy continues grappling with high inflation, the advertising industry is showing strong resilience by maintaining small but steady growth, according to the latest AA/Warc report. However, the somewhat underwhelming results have prompted marketers to shift gears into overdrive in hopes of making up for lost ground.

Holding down the fort with ‘quick fixes’

Paul Thompson, Country Manager at Seedtag doubles down on the negatives of the report, highlighting that quick solutions, such as short-term sales, will be the industry’s saving grace until the economy bounces back: “UK GDP is limping along on single-digits and the Bank of England is holding firm on interest rate rises, the pain of which will be felt into next year as the effects filter through the population. Ad spend looks set to continue its usual resilience through 2023, with positive growth expected in online display, but a focus on short-term sales will be the status quo until the economy is on the path to recovery.”

Short-term opportunities offer breathing room for businesses

Recognizing the challenges facing the industry, Shirlene Chandrapal, Global Head of Commercial at Redmill Solutions says global events might just be what businesses need to turn the corner: “Increased spend over this year cannot hide that brands are finding it tough at the moment. Continuing layoffs only emphasize that a drop in performance could lead to budgets being slashed once again. However, with some predicting the peak of inflation has passed, brands can look forward again and begin to rebuild the market.

“Global tentpole events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Paralympics or retail’s Golden Quarter provide a perfect opportunity to do just that. But to maximize spend, marketers must take a local-first approach to their campaigns. Preserving the insight-rich media data collected by teams on the ground enables success in each unique local market, ultimately delivering better ROI for the global whole.”

While Andy Ashley, Global Marketing Director, SmartFrame Technologies agrees that events offer corporations some breathing room, only long-term solutions and new revenue opportunities can provide business longevity: “As the cost-of-living crisis and higher inflation continue, the idea of walking a mile in the customers’ shoes becomes increasingly important. Sporting events have given the industry a much-needed boost, but a more consistent and sustainable approach is needed.

“Marketers need to focus on tech innovations that open up new revenue opportunities. A future-focused mindset, one that restructures the industry’s traditional outlook, is crucial if we’re to move beyond a sticking-plaster approach to economic uncertainty and create long-term success.”

Putting budgets to work, through measurement and optimization

Although the advertising space continues to grow, it’s not quite reaching the industry’s highest expectations. In a bid to help marketers minimize their losses, Nick Welch, Head of Programmatic at Integral Ad Science (IAS) reiterates the opportunities and benefits that come through optimization. “Modest growth means marketers will still be under pressure to make efficiencies. In the search for results, marketers should look to measurement and optimization tools to help them drive greater efficiencies and better ROI as it reduces wastage from their ad spend – ensuring they’re reaching real people and maximizing engagement.”

Opportunities to diversify omni-channel marketing strategies show exciting potential

With a more positive spin on things, Dan Pike, Chief Product Officer at Covatic highlights the positive growth of adspend on radio, a promising channel for marketers to capitalize on: “The latest report shows growth for the UK advertising industry, a welcome relief amid economic turmoil and inflationary pressures. As marketers look for ways to maximize adspend, new targeting opportunities will be crucial for building momentum through 2024, especially as Google starts its phasing out of third-party cookies for real. Radio is expected to see adspend growth; an exciting prospect that further cements audio advertising as one of the most promising channels for marketers to invest in.

“With growth then expected to subside in 2024, the advertising industry can’t let its foot off the pedal. Marketers must future-proof their strategies by prioritizing high-quality inventory and privacy-compliant solutions that help them continue to meet audience expectations while driving ROI.”

The future is private, but action is needed today

Evgeny (Ev) Popov, Executive Vice President & General Manager, International at Verve Group, focuses on clear and concise solutions, highlighting how pivoting to address privacy challenges will enable brands to capitalize on next year’s projected growth: “Marketers must future-proof their strategies and invest in privacy-centric solutions that enable accurate targeting and performance measurement at scale without overreliance on personal data. That will help them exceed consumer expectations, keep up with regulatory changes in the coming months, and make the most of the higher growth expected in 2024.”

Despite financial challenges, exacerbated by tightening privacy legislation, the advertising industry has sustained growth, but the next few months will be critical. With a more positive forecast for 2024 and promising opportunities up for grabs, the remainder of 2023 will be pivotal in determining which strategies enable smooth sailing through tumultuous financial winds and which should be thrown overboard.