Not bigger but better for 2021?

The IPA Bellwether Report measures budget increases against cuts and has found things are getting better in the first quarter of 2021, or at least less bad, than in the last quarter of 2020.

Marketing budgets are still down but they’re down by less than they were previously. In a pandemic-hit digital marketing world, that is what passes for good news.

In the first quarter of 2021, the figures show there was a net balance of -11.5% between those marketers who have seen budgets go up in the quarter, compared to those who have experienced cuts. In other words, 11.5% more marketers saw budgets go down than those who saw an increase. This would normally be an alarming figure but it comes after the final quarter of 2020 saw a net balance of -25%.

The survey looks at seven different disciplines within marketing and it will come as little surprise that the hardest hit was Events. It saw a staggering net balance of -43% on budgets. However, as with the overall average figure, this was not as bad as the -63% recorded for the last quarter of 2020.

Digital marketing recovering

There was some soothing news for digital marketers. There was equilibrium between those reporting gains and losses in online marketing budgets. Digital video advertising bucked the general trend with a +3% net balance, compared to -3% in Q4 of 2020.

There was also some good news from marketers reporting that a net balance of 17% expect to see budget increases in the next twelve months. That is the most positive predicted uplift since 2018. Similarly, marketers are more buoyant about the sectors they operate recovering in the next year. With a net balance of 26% feeling more confident, the figures show the highest level of optimism recorded since 2015.

These predictions sum up the overall picture painted by the IPA Bellwether Report for Q1 2021 which points to marketers expecting budgets to improve, revenues to recover and for the industries they operate in to return to positive growth over the next twelve months. Budgets are in poor shape right now, but the situation is better than last year and, marketers agree, better days are ahead.

Featured image: wutzkohphoto /

Sean Hargrave

Sean Hargrave is the former Innovation Editor of The Sunday Times, now freelancing for The Guardian, The Telegraph, Wired and digital marketing, websites, Econsultancy, Marketing Week, London Research and Mediapost. He uses more than two decades of experience in the media to help companies with their content and communications strategy to deliver leads through white papers, blogs and opinion pieces. For MediaCat UK, Sean keeps ahead of the latest news and trends.

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