Feel the fear, but do it anyway

Russell Parsons

The pronouncements coming from UK PLC’s great and good during the last throws of 2010 are worryingly similar to those uttered a year earlier, fear of the unknown.

Or, to use the corporate parlance, “cautious optimism” is being expressed, exactly as it was 12 months ago.

The reason for the tip-toeing? The impending VAT rise, inflation and fear over the impact of public sector job cuts, a potential perfect storm that could send a still fragile economy hurtling back into recession.

In the meantime, it can be confidently reported that, for most, 2010 was a much better year than the tumultuous 2009.

Ad spend is forecast to haven risen 6.6% this year, according to the latest expenditure report by the Advertising Association and Warc as purse strings are loosened.

Marketers, however, continue to look over their shoulder. The AA/WARC report predicts that despite a better-than-expected 2010, 2011 will see a slowdown in growth, with a more modest 2.3% uplift forecast.

Unpredictability, however, should not be responded to with a tentative approach, for this is a time for marketers to be bold. Bold in recognising that 2011 and beyond brings with it opportunities as well as threats.

Despite a tightly controlled environment for the benefit of rights-holders, the imaginative marketer cannot fail to use and benefit greatly from the London 2012 Olympic Games. The 2010 World Cup was credited with part-inspiring this year’s rebound in advertising spend, a positive affect that will no doubt be felt ten-fold for a tournament taking place on these shores as excitement builds next year.

For direct marketers willing to integrate and innovate, the opportunities that social media continues to bring are exciting and potentially lucrative. Digital is there to be embraced and will elevate DM-inspired campaigns built on the basic tenants of targeting and accountability to new heights.

So, reason to be cheerful next year, yet the foreboding and fear of a recessionary reverse continue to dog. A bullish approach alone is not enough and this is where the Government needs to help.

In addition to overseeing unprecedented change in Whitehall, the coalition needs to act as cheerleaders. Not just by developing private stimuli to offset public sector cuts but in talking up, and recognising the value of marketing as a force for good as well as a generator of income.

I have no doubt the private sector friendly Conservative led government recognises the necessity of marketing. I also appreciate that they have recognised the role that industry can play in public policy through the in development responsibility agreement with industry.

What can change is some of the language coming out of Whitehall. Between Cabinet Office Minster Francis Maude, when talking about Government ad spend, and Prime Minster David Cameron’s musings on advertising to kids, marketing and marketers have been variously described as “wasteful”, and “irresponsible”.

A more positive picture should be painted next year, because it is marketing and marketers that will help ensure that it is just “optimism”, and not the “cautious” kind that it being forecast for 2012.

Have a happy Christmas and a fantastic new year.

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