News Exchange: Time to step up
- 29 April 2019
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Our regular roundup of the most interesting marketing stories finds the sector grappling with quarterly budgets, consumer apathy, employee burnout and the final frontier
Spend it wisely
We start with some welcome news. The latest Bellwether report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has recorded a notable jump in marketing budgets. Last year (Q4 2018), 0% of marketers reported that their budgets had increased. For the first three months of 2019, 8.7% said their budgets had grown.
There could be a few reasons for this, comments CIM marketing director Gemma Butler. “This might just be a function of budget planning: savings from the end of 2018 have been carried over into the new year. Or this might be due to the ongoing political uncertainty.
Brexit is almost certainly a factor for the cautious note being struck about marketing spend for the rest of 2019. “We’ve got a new October deadline, but there is still lots of uncertainty about what our departure will actually look like,” says Butler. Accordingly, a balance of only 3.4% of marketers believe their budgets will grow during the rest of the calendar year. “Whatever – and whenever – the outcome of Brexit, brands still need to be seen and heard. Using mass marketing for reach and awareness, backed up by more targeted digital campaigns, is still a sound strategy.”
Working smarter, not harder
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has found that people in the UK work the longest hours in the EU. The country’s full-time employees averaged 42 hours a week last year, compared to 39 in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, France, Sweden and Ireland, and 37 in Denmark. Despite spending less time at their desks, workers in countries including Denmark and Germany are more productive than their UK counterparts.
Reports such as this one tend to spark conversations about four-day working weeks in which fit, energised and focused employees get everything done by the close of play on Thursday. But, tempting as a three-day weekend might sound, it is not a cure for all business ills. “Four-day weeks simply won’t work for some industries,” says CIM’s Adam Pyle. “They also raise new worries for many employees: will they be paid the same? Will they be more expendable?” Instead, Pyle advocates a more holistic transformation of British office culture. “Businesses need to look at how they manage stress, output and related employee issues more generally.”
A recent Adler survey of 1,000 UK workers showed 48% preferred flexible working hours over pension schemes or performance bonuses. “There is an opportunity here for businesses to distinguish themselves in the eyes of potential recruits – to boost their employer brand – by reviewing how they look after their staff,” says Pyle. “At a time when a long hours culture is negatively impacting many workers, any business that understands how to mitigate any problems will stand out.”
Reaching saturation point
A report by Kantar suggests UK consumers are apathetic towards advertising and many flat out mistrust it. The research firm’s study of 5,000 consumers found 56% objected to over-targeting and 55% were completely apathetic to ad content. Almost three-quarters (73%) said they were seeing the same ads again and again, while just 11% said they enjoyed advertising.
“This is not a new issue,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler. “But these results do highlight that there is still a lack of strategic thinking and execution when it comes to digital with the data and insights not being applied to that thinking, and ultimately the noise just keeps increasing.
This scattergun approach is harming perceptions of advertising and needs to be updated. “When a brand puts itself in front of a consumer, it needs to offer them something valuable, something more than just noise,” says Butler. “Less is more right now and businesses should be closely studying the impact of their previous advertising activities to inform future strategies.”
Separate research by Target Internet, a CIM-accredited study centre, has confirmed the lack of understanding around digital. As well as highlighting an overreliance on email marketing, it revealed significant skills gaps around analytics and content marketing. And there is a more general disconnect in many marketing departments: while those in senior roles lack technical knowledge, the junior staff who hold those skills tend to be less familiar with the fundamental principles of marketing.
According to Kantar UK & Ireland Media division CEO Mark Inskip, “If brands and advertisers are going to rebuild – and retain – the trust of their audiences, we need to see more responsible use of data across the industry. By adopting an integrated approach, balancing niche targeting capabilities with mass marketing tactics, brands can provide consumers with a helpful, additive experience.”
In line with Target’s findings, that integrated approach is clearly going to require more integrated marketing departments in which tech-savvy junior staff work far closer with their strategy-minded seniors.
Speaking of ad saturation…
When Pepsi’s latest quarterly results beat expectations, shares in the soft-drinks giant skyrocketed to their highest level since at least 1980. Its success in a fiercely competitive food and beverage market was attributed in part to its renewed focus on marketing. Then, just as the world was watching again, Pepsi experienced a failure to launch.
It was reported that the company’s Russian subsidiary had partnered with a local startup, StartRocket, to explore the use of ‘stratosphere advertisements’. StartRocket says it can use micro satellites to project logos into space. Unsurprisingly, there was something of a consumer backlash. The social media consensus was that this kind of advertising was a highly unnecessary form of ‘space pollution’.
Pepsi has subsequently reined itself in, claiming its partnership with StartRocket was a “one-time event” and that it has no further plans to deploy the technology. “At a time when the global conversation is focused on the environment, the timing is unfortunate for Pepsi,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler. “People are already fed up with excessive advertising noise. Brands need to consider how they reach out to consumers and take on board public opinion.”
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