Growing economic uncertainty, continued ambiguity over Brexit and additional risk through a change of political leadership in the UK are among the factors that stalled the growth of marketing budgets in the UK during the second quarter.

That’s according to the Q2 2019 IPA Bellwether Report, released today: a net balance of +8.7% of panel members reporting growth in Q1 slumped to 0.0% in Q2.

“Between Boris, Jeremy and Brexit, coupled with a dip in consumer confidence, it is perhaps no wonder that this quarter’s Bellwether shows zero growth to overall UK marketing budgets,” said IPA Director General Paul Bainsfair.

“Until a clearer political and economic path is outlined, the vast majority of companies are in stasis.”

The detail of the panel findings shows that the 20% of members reporting greater marketing spend was completely offset by those cutting expenditure, while the remaining 60% kept budgets unchanged since Q1.

Nevertheless, marketing executives were given extra discretion over internet-based advertising in the second quarter, as signalled by a net balance of +11.5% of firms reporting budget growth (+17.2% in Q1). Within internet, search/SEO budgets also grew solidly (net balance of +9.9% from +14.2%).

Main media advertising budgets, too, were given a boost in the second quarter, as some firms used big-ticket marketing campaigns to build brand recognition and expand customer bases – “crucial to weathering these tougher times”, noted Bainsfair.

There were also suggestions that marketing was being deployed as a defensive strategy due to increased competitive pressures. Overall, a net balance of +5.6% of companies reported greater main media marketing budgets (+5.2% in Q1).

The only other Bellwether category to register growth in the second quarter was events, where the net balance increased to +4.8%, from +3.4%.

Elsewhere, available market research spend was reduced for a sixteenth successive quarter (net balance of -2.9% from -4.2%), while PR budgets were also cut (net balance of -5.2% from +0.0%). There was a second successive downward revision to sales promotion budgets (-7.1% from -3.7%).

Aside from the ‘other’ advertising category (net balance of -12.8% from -5.4%), it was direct marketing which was the worst performer, with the net balance falling to -9.0% (-3.5% previously), the lowest level in over ten years.

Bellwether expects only a modest 1.1% annual increase in adspend over the year as a whole as businesses look to contain costs and shield against challenging demand conditions. But it sees adspend growth picking up in subsequent years as uncertainty clears.

Sourced from IPA Bellwether report; additional content by WARC staff