The Q4 2006 Bellwether Report, the quarterly survey of marketing spend, published by the UK's Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and researched by NTC Economics, reveals a stabilisation of marketing budgets.

Contrasting with the sharp downgrades seen earlier in the year this reflects improving business conditions. In fact, budget setting across the whole marketing spectrum will be the most buoyant in seven years for 2007-08.

Total marketing budgets were revised down in Q4, but only very marginally. However, the internet saw by far the strongest upward revision, with the sharpest gain since the first quarter of 2000. Although traditional media still holds the lion's share of marketing spend, the internet is now estimated to account for 5% of all marketing budgets.

Highlights of the Q4 2006 report include:

  • Despite the improved performance in the second half of the year, 2006 is likely to have seen the weakest growth in marketing communications since 2002.

  • In Q4, 17% of companies reported increased total marketing budgets while 18% reported a decrease, so only a marginal net decline.

  • Although traditional advertising continued to lose share of total marketing spend the overall reduction was slight. 18% of companies reported a downward revision but 15% reported an increase.

  • Internet marketing budgets out performed all other sectors in Q4, with a net balance of 31.5% of companies reporting an increase across all business sectors.

  • Direct marketing was the only main category of marketing (i.e. excluding the internet) to see a rise in budgets in Q4, with a net balance of 4.1% of companies reporting an increase. Upward budget revisions were linked to new campaigns to meet business expansion as well as a shift in strategy towards direct marketing.

  • By sector, increases to budgets were most widely reported in IT and computing, travel, entertainment, and the financial services. Budget cuts were most widely reported in FMCG, industrial and utilities and the autos sector.

  • Non-traditional marketing, including the internet and sponsorship is so far showing the strongest growth in future spend, followed closely by direct marketing and traditional advertising.

    Comments IPA president David Pattison: "Business conditions are continuing to improve with 2007 set to be a positive one for all sectors, with indications that there will be strong growth in future spend for both main media and non-traditional marketing."

    WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell adds: "The UK, although recently our weakest market internationally, is stabilising and growing again. Q4 was stronger and budgets for 2007 are promising. Again direct, interactive and internet are the star functional sectors."

    Aegis Group ceo Robert Lerwill says: "Digital excitement shows no sign of abating, with ever more clients catching on. The growth continues to come on all fronts: from those who went digital early and like the results, as well as from the later developers, who don't want to miss out a minute longer."

    For full details of the report go to

    Data sourced from IPA; additional conent by WARC staff