IPA Bellwether Q1 2024: Budget Growth Remains Strong 

Despite a decrease in main media advertising, budget growth remained strong in Q1 2024. The industry outlook is positive, according to the latest IPA Bellwether Report. We asked experts from across the marketing sector for their assessments. 

The UK’s total marketing budgets saw another solid expansion in the first quarter of 2024, reaching their second-strongest upturn since Q2 2022. This follows the results of IPA’s previous report which boasted the biggest rise in marketing budgets since 2014. 

Although many marketers remained wary of cost-saving where possible, most budget categories saw growth. Mirroring IPA’s Q4 2023 findings, events continued as the strongest sub-category with event budget expansion now hitting the highest rate on record (net balance of +23.1%). Within the category, over three ten respondents signalled an upward revision. Looking ahead, another strong quarter for the segment is predicted. Direct marketing came in second place, achieving a net balance of +7%. Sales promotions budgets also gathered more momentum (+4.9%).   

As 2024 further unfolds, how positive is the industry outlook? We asked some industry experts what they make of the figures. 

We’re Seeing More Brand Engagement Through Live Activations 

Our experience backs up the report’s findings. We’re seeing more and more brands engaging with Times and Sunday Times audiences through live activations. The ability to reach a targeted, hard-to-reach and known audience through a high-engagement, authoritative event programme can really move the needle for the right brands. It can create a truly unique and memorable audience interaction. 

What’s interesting is that as well as a successful portfolio of consumer events, demand from B2B clients is growing for opportunities to connect and engage with business decision makers.

Caroline Tredget, Commercial Director, The Times & The Sunday Times

Businesses Should Continue to Monitor Brand Perception 

Motor racing legend Ayrton Senna once said that “You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather…but you can when it's raining.” Off the back of a broadly upbeat set of economic predictions, it is hoped that those advertisers who have continued to support their brands during recessionary times now start to see the benefits of their confidence as the economy improves and inflationary pressures ease. At the same time, in light of the predicted decrease in overall spend on market research, it is hoped that businesses also continue to monitor the effect of advertising on perceptions of their brands so they can adjust their bearings where necessary to maintain their momentum.

Sean Adams, CMO, Brand Metrics

The Real Threat of AI is for Non-Adopters 

In an identity-free world, there has never been a stronger argument for the adoption of AI that maximises and proves ROI for online advertising. The power of AI enhances the analysis of alternative consumer signals that influence the timing, placement and creative of online adverts, as well as their effectiveness. 

Despite concerns regarding marketplace competition, the only real threat of AI is for non-adopters. It will not take your job, but someone using AI will.

Stephen Upstone, CEO & Founder, LoopMe

Focus Should Remain on Cookie Alternatives 

With slowing budget growth, advertisers cannot afford to pull spend away from finding alternatives to the cookie that allow them to target audiences and measure digital campaigns in a privacy-first way. And to be truly effective and future-proof, alternative solutions cannot simply replicate advertising identifiers. While focusing on cookie alternatives may add short-term pressure, it will give advertisers a solid platform for long-term growth.

Raphael Rodier, Global Chief Revenue Officer, Ogury

Marketers Have Been Looking Ahead to This Year’s Summer of Sports 

Q4 is traditionally the busiest time of year for consumer spending, with Black Friday closely followed by Christmas, so it’s quite surprising that ad spend increased in Q1 2024. While many will say the captive audience the holiday season brings has diminished, marketing teams have clearly been looking ahead to a year filled with key advertising moments, wanting to plan early rather than compete last minute.

The summer brings with it Euro 2024, closely followed by the Paris Olympics, both of which are happening in time zones that are conducive to strong consumer engagement in the UK. The continued growth of CTV will no doubt have played a role in increased ad spend as well, with the latest figures highlighting a strong uptake of Netflix’s advertising tier – 1.45m homes in the UK, and 23m active users globally. As this grows, so will the volume of brands investing in the platform.

Matt White, VP EMEA, Quantcast

Cookie Deprecation is Tempering Enthusiasm for Big Spending Hikes 

This report reflects the mixed industry outlook for 2024: as favourable conditions drive continued budget growth, fast-mounting complexities are bringing a shift towards cautious planning. Gradual cookie deprecation is tempering enthusiasm for big spending hikes, while MFAs pose rising transparency challenges for retail media, and even connected TV investment has plateaued. To succeed in this ever-changing landscape, marketers must continue to adapt and prepare for the inevitable, or risk being left behind.

Matthew Villa, Head of Sales US, MGID