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Experiential bucks overall trend of falling investment in marketing.

In a bleak Brexit-influenced quarter for marketing spending, experiential presents a beacon of optimism.


The latest IPA Bellwether report paints a generally sombre picture of investment in marketing for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2018 in the shadow of Brexit uncertainty.

Almost every marketing category experienced falling investment with two notable exceptions. Spending on event and experiential marketing actually rose by 2.6% while sales promotion spend was up 3.8%.

The result for experiential marketing maintained the almost continuos quarterly growth in investment in the discipline over recent years, and reveals Q3 2018’s dip in spending to be simply a blip.

Investment in other categories, however, was either cut or subdued. After six years of continuous growth in investment, marketing spend overall fell in Q4 last year. Those marketers who saw growth in budget spending (16%), were exactly matched by those who saw spending cuts (-16%), meaning budgets effectively flatlined.

The trend towards digital advertising continued, but growth fell from +13.6% in Q3, to just +2.1% in Q4. Within online advertising, spending on search/SEO dropped from +5.8% in Q3 to -3.9%, recording the first such fall in spending since Q2 2009. Mobile spend was also down to -2.4%, from +1.9% the previous quarter. Meanwhile, main media advertising – including large-scale campaigns on TV and in newspapers – saw the first negative growth for two quarters, with the net balance falling to -6.5% from +4.8%.

Looking ahead to financial year 2019/20, the proportion of marketers expecting to see increased budget spending was 27%, barely higher than those who predicted cuts (26%).

There was some good news as the report did increase its adspend forecast for 2019, from 0.7% growth to 1.3%. This takes into account forecasts of a bounce-back in business investment, and assumes Brexit uncertainties will ease.