Conferences register budget upturn

Conferences, exhibitions and corporate hospitality budgets registered their strongest upturn since the beginning of 2004, as UK marketing budgets were revised up for the first time in more than a year. Figures from the quarterly Bellwether Report into the marketing spends of 250 UK companies saw budgets for these activities increase modestly in the third quarter, with 2.4% of the companies surveyed, indicating budget increases. This is the first increase since the fourth quarter in 2004. The report noted the largest upward revisions in the ‘all other’ marketing sector, which includes conferences, exhibitions and corporate hospitality, for public sector, retail and service providers. Budgets were cut on average in the auto, industrial/utilities and FMCG sectors. Despite the recovery on marketing budgets in quarter three, the report predicts 2006 is set to see the weakest growth in marketing spend since 2002. However, the report’s author, NTC Economics’ Chris Williamson, says the data suggest that a recovery in marketing spend may be stronger in the second half of 2006. "Corporate profitability is currently at a 40-year high, meaning funds available to marketing departments have risen by more than many companies were expecting at the start of the year." Grass Roots Group head of marketing communications Nick Wake agreed that clients seem to be more buoyant. "We are noting an increase in briefs requesting larger projects, particularly in the area of employee engagement," he said. "Our central planning team is busier than it has been for the past 12 months." The strongest growth in budgets was reported for internet marketing, followed by direct marketing and ‘all other’ marketing. Traditional media marketing budgets were cut on average for the eighth consecutive quarter, although budget trimming has slowed.

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