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Today’s marketer works in a rapidly evolving landscape dominated by new media, strict legislation, green issues and small budgets, but some things stay the same – women rarely reach board level

Todays marketers works in a rapidly evolving landscape dominated by new media, strict legislation, green issues and small budgets, but some things stay the same women rarely reach board level.

The marketing environment is evolving fast. New media are playing a role like never before, with companies such as Warner Breaks wholeheartedly committing themselves to online (MW last week). Meanwhile, agency relationships are changing too – the introduction of TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employees) legislation will have a serious impact on agency working practices and the acquisition of new business and clients. What do developments such as these mean for the industry? Are marketers confident in this changing landscape? Research, by the publishers of The Marketing Manager’s Yearbook looking at the attitudes of the UK’s most senior marketers, provides a snapshot of the current state of the marketing industry. These findings also offer an interesting comparative analysis to those contained in the Chartered Institute Marketing’s most recent Marketing Trends Survey (MW April 13).

The situation regarding marketing budgets remains taciturn. The number of companies with marketing budgets under 500,000 has increased, while those with budgets over 500,000 have decreased. The portion of marketers commanding budgets of up to 500,000 in 2005 was 56%: this increased to 76% this year. And the number of marketers responsible for budgets of over 500,000 has reduced proportionately.

In terms of expectations, 46% of respondents say they expect marketing budgets to increase over the next year, with 54% expecting budgets to either remain the same or decrease.

In a continuing trend, the proportion of marketing spend allocated to new media activity is growing, with the most significant increases being for website design, search engine optimisation and e-mail marketing. In 2005, 39% of marketers said they invested in website design, 17% in search engine optimisation and 11% in e-mail marketing. Today, 78% – double the previous year – invest in website design and 36% in search engine optimisation. The figure for e-mail marketing is 49% – a huge jump to four times the level of the previous year.

It is hardly surprising that new media increasingly accounts for a larger slice of the marketing pie. Technological advancements and increasingly tech-savvy consumers mean marketers have to deliver messages where people are going to see them. With recent research suggesting that the average British internet user spends more than 50 days a year online and the Web fast overtaking television as the main medium in UK households, marketing activity of this kind will proliferate.

The increase in search engine optimisation indicates that this activity is being recognised by marketers as an effective way of presenting products to buyers at the point at which they are researching or looking to buy. In our survey, 86% of marketers say they use Google to source suppliers, among a range of other sources, including print and online directories, magazine supplements and rival search engines.

In addition to the massive surge of activity in the use of e-mail as a marketing tool, the survey also indicates that it is becoming the preferred medium for marketers to contact potential suppliers, with 61% of respondents saying they prefer this route, compared to the 41% who prefer the phone. The figure for those who prefer to use websites to check suppliers was 12%, though the in-built contact forms in some supplier sites are less popular with marketers.

The factors influencing marketing activity that pose the greatest challenge to marketers (ranked in order of importance) are: competition, legislation, technology, corporate social responsibility and environmental considerations.

Marketers have mixed reactions about the threat posed by the preference services they now face when undertaking direct marketing activity, with 41% saying they are not concerned, 31% saying they are unsure about the threat posed and 26% expressing concern over the threat.

There is also a lot of confusion over the restrictions on advertising and marketing around the London 2012 Olympic Games, as imposed by the London Olympic Games Act, with 11% of marketers finding the legislation restrictive and 27% believing it is necessary. However, 61% feel they do not understand the issue well enough to answer the question.

When it comes to the proportion of men and women who work in marketing departments, men make up 57% of the workforce and women comprise 43%. At the most senior level – marketing director – just 26% are female, a lamentable figure given the overall gender split.

This insight into the marketing departments of today is a diverse one. It shows departments actively changing the focus of their marketing activity, albeit with smaller budgets or with budgets that are unlikely to increase. Men still dominate the upper echelons of the industry where there are few female directors. There is also a surprising lack of awareness of issues arising from the London Olympic Games Act, one of the biggest marketing stories in recent times.

However, there are many in the sector who remain forward-looking, with a lack of concern about preference services and a healthy regard for competition. Some things never change.

Helen Helmer, editorial manager of AP Information Services, contributed to this week’s Trends Insight