State of the Industry 2015: Auto and finance sectors continue resurgence

Automotive and financial services sectors are proving buoyant again this year, while agencies are seeing a strong return to incentives across both sectors, according to C&IT's State of the Industry report.

New products and attractive finance deals are fuelling consumer demand in the automotive sector, so it’s no surprise that agencies are also reaping the benefits, with many saying the the sector continues to offer plenty of opportunity for growth. AddingValue says growth in the sector has also influenced the type of events it is organising, with a marked return to incentives.

"Incentives went on the backburner for a while, but there’s confidence there and the sector is also looking for a lot more investment in training their dealer networks", says AddingValue’s managing director Tina Morris. "It’s all about the brand and experiential, whether that’s with a consumer involved or just directly with the channel or the dealer network."

It’s a view shared by Giselle Ripken, director, meetings & events, at Grass Roots, who says there is ‘really good growth’ in the sector as a result of a strong return of confidence. The agency is seeing the potential in what it calls ‘motivational meetings’, those with a strong business objective but which also include some kind of celebratory or incentive element. Banks Sadler, meanwhile, has carried out work recently for a client in the automotive sector, a sector it has not traditionally been involved in.

Sectors of growth

Mark Scales, head of events solutions at Banks Sadler, says the financial sector, too, has ‘got the budgets and the inclination’ and as a result, the agency is seeing increased demand for events in that sector. In his view, it’s not so much growth in the sector, but more a return to normal levels experienced pre-recession.

Generally, agencies are sensing more confidence in the sector when it comes to events. Five per cent of those agencies surveyed said financial services was a new vertical sector, while AddingValue’s Morris saying that the agency has a couple of financial services clients who have placed their faith back in incentives.

A desire for companies to better communicate products to staff and the marketplace is driving demand for events in the professional services sector, according to Grass Roots’ Ripken.

"We’re seeing this with professional services – such as the legal and accountancy sectors, where companies need to do a lot more communication with their staff or around their products, or in relation to legal compliance."

Financial adviser support group Tenet, for example, says it has increased its staff events to one per quarter, in line with new quarterly provider awards that the firm has introduced. This, says event manager Amanda Ford, has been done to raise more awareness and recognition of the award winners.

The construction sector – one industry that agencies highlighted as a growth area last year, continues to show potential. Guy Horner, managing director at TBA, highlights the booming building industry in London as a driver for growth.  

With technology growing at a fast pace, and a continual need for promotion of new products or brand-led activity it’s not surprising that the IT and telecoms sector is one that continues to flourish.

And while some agencies are finding the pharma market under more pressure than most because of new restrictions, healthcare continues to be resilient, according to Luke Flett, head of sales and marketing at Ashfield Meetings & Events. Fresh Group, meanwhile, says it has recently won its first pharma client and expects to target more, while WRG Live says it is actively looking to grow its client base in this sector.

Retail rollercoaster

Prospects in the retail sector are dividing agencies, a reflection perhaps of the wider industry. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that UK retail sales rose by 1.2% in April, yet analysts have warned that fierce competition on the high street means that retailers are struggling to increase the value of their sales. Some agencies have said there are retail sectors they are no longer looking to target, while others say the sector is more buoyant than others.

"We do quite a lot of work with supermarket brands and some are no longer giving us business when they used to give us quite a lot before," says Tim Shepley, Bluehat Group chief executive. "However, other supermarket brands are giving us quite a bit more. It does vary. On balance the ones that are doing well are investing more with us because perhaps they’re competing with online shopping and they have to improve the way that they are efficient."

The general return to business confidence is also prompting some agencies to look beyond their industry specialisms. Late last year, pharma-focused Ashfield Meetings & Events launched partner brand Spark Thinking, aimed at enhancing the agency’s existing offering with ‘edgier, more interesting and exploratory options’. Spark Thinking has since won clients including technology giant Amadeus and Leeds Beckett University.


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