Britain's Institute of Practitioners in Advertising on Tuesday released its quarterly Bellwether Report on UK marketing budgets, monitoring business sentiment over the three months to March 31 2004.

Judged by the expenditure intentions of the 250 senior marketers interviewed for Bellwether, adspend growth through 2004 in will tend toward low-key maturation rather than the 'bath-shaped' upsurge predicted three years ago by Sir Martin Sorrell.

Disappointing to Panglossians though the recovery curve may be, the report is far from gloomy. According to its author, Chris Williamson of NTC Research, there is a convincing trend among major marketers to increase budgets (26% of respondents) rather than cut them, demonstrating a reversal of sentiment for the first time since 2000.

Whilst budgets for all main marketing activities were revised upward in Q1, the sharpest rate of increase was recorded for internet marketing. Modest growth was also reported for traditional media adspend, the first noted by the survey since Q1 2000.

Maintaining the trend of recent years, direct mail and sales promotion again outran other disciplines in terms of quarterly expenditure growth, driven mainly by a need for greater accountability in marketing and the continuing media fragmentation wrought by new technology.

Bellwether Report is based on a questionnaire survey of more than 250 senior marketers in companies among the UK’s top 1000 corporations. It is available online at a concessionary price to IPA members (and to non-members at the published price) from the WARC Bookstore.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff