It is the worst of times and the best of times

Despite the doom predicted by the Bellwether report, there are short-term opportunities that the advertising industry can exploit

The most recent Bellwether Report may spell gloom and doom for some, but it also presents a number of opportunities.

At face value, the outlook for the advertising industry, according to the report, is at best cautious and at worst calamitous. Many clients are adopting a wait-and-see policy, either by cutting their budgets or holding off committing money until it is clearer how their business is performing and in what direction the economy will go during 2002.

Yet, scratching below the surface shows that the overall picture isn’t as bleak as it at first appears. For a start, commitment to direct marketing continues to grow as clients remain prepared to invest their money where it is most directly accountable. Additionally, there have been encouraging signs in January, with some significant activity from the travel and leisure sectors – sectors that have seen a marked decline since September 11.

From this perspective it can be seen there are opportunities to exploit and it is up to the advertising and media industries to impart them to clients.

First, it should come as no surprise that direct marketing is seeing continued growth. When times are tough or uncertain, it is easier to stick to the things that work and are accountable, where a return on investment can be measured and delivered.

Clients will maintain or even increase their marketing spend if they can be reasonably certain that it will help to deliver their business objectives. This means that any communication channel that presents itself as accountable, flexible and tactical is likely to see growth in market share. This is not exclusively the domain of direct channels – the challenge for the industry is to continue building some of these attributes into more traditional above-the-line media channels.

Second, the fact that clients are taking an increasingly short-term view of their media needs will impact on the dynamics of trading. As costs fall, clients that have maintained their budgets can get what they want for less, so they can use other media channels or keep the money.

Additionally, there is greater emphasis on the short-term market. This is largely uncharted water for the majority of the industry and has been dominated mostly by direct advertisers that are structured to work in this way. The move to short term produces challenges for buyers and sellers alike, as they need to adapt. TV is more likely to feel the brunt of this change in emphasis, as it is used to a longer approval process for producing ads for TV.

The major challenge is to harness the changes in the market to encourage lapsed, stalled, or new advertisers to take advantage of the value around at the moment. There are real opportunities for us to help our clients meet their business objectives.

The opportunities are many. But, to exploit interest and confidence to their maximum, the industry must show that media is accountable and can deliver a positive return on investment.

Jeff Hyams is managing director of Zed, the integrated media planning and buying agency

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here