Fate of advertising lies in how consumers deal with downturn

Jenny Biggam

A year ago last month, Northern Rock was nationalised. In the public consciousness, it heralded the beginning of the financial problems that went on to define 2008.

The past 12 months have seen many changes across the economy, the national mood and consumer behaviour. Much has been written on the first two of these, but the the effects on consumers have been documented in less detail.

There's certainly a mood of frugality. Tupperware and comfort foods, such as sausages and puddings, are doing well compared with the same period in 2007. But statistics like these only give marketers an incomplete picture.

Understanding the changes is the most important thing. Straw polls and unlinked sales figures from supermarkets are of limited help. While it is useful to know that sales of bangers and mash and plastic lunchboxes have increased, it is more important to look at how this fits into the alterations taking place in overall consumption patterns.