Event marketing budgets shrank in last quarter, says IPA Bellwether Report

Total marketing funds up but events spend down slightly for first time since 2013, finds leading industry report.

Total marketing budgets increased during the third quarter of 2018, but to the weakest extent in almost three years, according to the Q3 IPA Bellwether Report.

However, events marketing budgets shrank for the first time since 2013, down to -1.1% on the previous quarter. Direct marketing and marketing research also shrank to -7.4% and -3.7%, respectively.

While the overall picture was positive, the latest data signalled the weakest growth in total marketing budgets since the fourth quarter of 2015, with the net growth down to 2.5% from +6.5% in Q2 2018.

Matt Grey, director of new business EMEA at INVNT, said there are a number of reasons why event marketing budgets may have declined in quarter three.

"Firstly, it’s likely that a lot of brands will have mapped out most of their event marketing spend in quarters one (where budgets were up 7.8%) and two (where budgets rose by 4.3%)," said Grey.

"Events require longer lead times than other forms of marketing, so marketers will have begun planning, and therefore allocating spend to, their annual activation schedules either at the beginning of the calendar year, or in quarter two for those who commenced their new financial year in April."

"The decline could also be due to the fact that more and more brands are adopting an integrated approach to their event marketing campaigns. While the live element remains the focal point, they are choosing to increase their spend on promoting the event before and after it has taken place."

Paul Bainsfair, director general at IPA believes wider economic factors have played a part: "With ongoing Brexit uncertainty, it is perhaps no wonder that companies are having to be more cautious with their marketing spend and are inevitably increasingly downcast about their financial prospects.

According to Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit and author of the Bellwether Report, there has been a slowing of momentum in UK marketing budgets since 2016 and the latest report reveals continuing sluggishness.

Reason to be cheerful

INVNT’s Grey believes that despite the slightly gloomy outlook of the report and the economic uncertainty of Brexit, brands will continue to invest in events.

"Marketers recognise that, in a world where we’re increasingly distracted by our devices, are busier than ever, and yearn for face-to-face interactions, it’s one of the only ways they can effectively engage their audiences," said Grey.

"Events are the most potent form of marketing out there – they have the ability to truly immerse attendees in a brand’s world and in doing so, can successfully transform them into brand advocates for life. They’ve been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and I don’t see them disappearing any time soon!"

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