Marketing budgets inch up but worries remain

Marketers are starting 2013 slightly more optimistic than they finished 2012 with budgets set to increase and hopes for the financial prospects for their companies higher than they were last year, according to the latest Bellwether report. However, worries over the still subdued UK economy and the brittle confidence of consumers have prompted analysts to warn such optimism could soon disappear.


The poll of senior marketers from 300 companies, a respected barometer of confidence in the industry, found “cautious optimism” within the industry about the prospect finance directors will set budgets higher over 2013. More than a quarter (28 per cent) asked were expecting improvements in the performance of their own companies compared with 22 per cent more pessimistic.

The net balance of 6.8 per cent was a marked uplift on the -3 per cent reported by Bellwether in the third quarter and the best return in three quarters.

Increased optimism over budgets and company performance was likely driven by a swing in reported spend in the fourth quarter. Seventeen per cent of those polled spent more on marketing in the final three months of 2012, compared with the 16 per cent revising budgets down (See chart 1).

Chart 1

Although modest, the 1 per cent net balance is significantly better than the -5.5 registered in the third quarter.

Of those companies increasing budgets social media, display and banner advertising and online video continued to appeal with spend up 5.6 per cent, but for market research the only channel to enjoy greater investment in the fourth quarter. The decline in spending on traditional media – TV, press and radio – was arrested with budgets flat over the period, while the rate of decline in direct marketing investment slowed, down 1.3 per cent compared to a fall of 6.2 per cent in the third quarter (See chart 2).

Chart 1

The more positive outlook expressed by some was offset by gloomier predictions about the prospects for the UK economy. Flat GDP growth, stuttering consumer confidence and faltering spending in 2012 coupled with forecasts of slight if any improvement in 2013 have left marketers nervous about prospects for their industry. Over 29 per cent were more pessimistic compared with just 12 per cent more optimistic.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit and author of the Bellwether report, says: “The initial increase [in 2013 marketing budgets] is one of the smallest seen over the past 12 years, with only 2012 seeing a more downbeat start to the year.

“Companies remain cautious about raising expenditure on marketing activities due to weaker than expected sales and profits last year and ongoing uncertainty about the economic outlook at home and abroad.”

The Bellwether report mirrors the forecast for advertising spend offered by the Advertising Association/WARC report earlier this week. The duo predicted spend would climb to £17.2bn in 2013, compared to the £16.8bn spent in 2012.

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