The UK is always vulnerable to external shocks, but media has run ahead of GDP since 2010, and if it does so in 2016, UK media investment will have reclaimed its 2007 peak in real terms.
This post is by Adam Smith, GroupM.
The UK General election outcome was, arguably, the most business-friendly of the permutations on offer by eliminating more uncertainty than it created, but it is not a home run for the economy. Scottish independence and European union membership are top of investor worries, especially from overseas. EU negotiations could become difficult.
The UK is always vulnerable to external shocks – candidates presently include a pronounced China slowdown, a dollar crisis in the faster-growth world, or a 'correction' in equities. HSBC reminds us that recessions in the US come around every eight or nine years. It is six since the last, and the Fed presently lacks the usual five-point headroom to cut rates. Most central banks are in a similar bind. We are 'sailing without lifeboats', as HSBC's Stephen King put it.
Government will remain a drain on aggregate demand. It aims to reduce state spending to 'very slightly' above 34.5% of GDP by the end of this parliament, from around 41% now. that will take some doing. shorter term, it aims to reduce government spending one percent in real terms in each of the first two years, accumulating to £30 billion less annual spending by the end of year two, on top of the £120 billion achieved by the coalition. Growth will, therefore, depend on the private sector continuing to offset this headwind: this requires more domestic demand, business investment and exports.
The demand stimulus of cheaper oil may continue filtering through to UK and, particularly, Eurozone consumers for until well into 2016. But even advertisers benefiting from cheaper oil lack pricing power in a deflationary world. The focus on marketing cost and performance will remain, and there is no limit on innovation or differentiation.
UK media investment demonstrates this. It grew 7% in 2014. Almost half this growth sprang from online display, the most innovative part of UK advertising today, in execution, formats and intelligence. Digital display grew 26% in 2014, according to PwC/IAB. We think this was exceptional, and the chief element in our forecasts is this line decelerating to a still-spectacular 15% in 2015 and 13% in 2016. Paid search growth has been slowing for three years, and is now into single digits, alongside e-commerce growth, which may indicate 'maturity', by the elevated standards of digital.
The second observation is TV's impressive gains in 2015. We came into the year expecting around 4% growth and now have it at nearly 9%. This is mainly new demand, not inflation of existing demand. We expect all-adult TV impacts to drop only one percent in 2015, but take more notice of 16- to 34-year-olds, which we have down five percent. UK TV impacts are coming off an all-time high in 2013: we are not (yet) in the US's position of double-digit declines, a market presently exuding a sense of managed crisis, as online alternatives seize the opportunity. Meanwhile, sobering word arrives from Australia, where (ad-free) Netflix was recently reported to be occupying 27% of all time online.
We have headline UK media investment growth at 6% in 2015, well above expected 4% nominal GDP. this means measured media is increasing its share of the economy. TV's big 2015 sets up a 'hard comp' for next year, but we still feel confident enough to make a first prediction of 5% for 2016.
Media has run ahead of GDP since 2010, and if it manages to do so again in 2016, UK media investment will finally have reclaimed its 2007 peak in real terms: one of the first mature economies to do so.