EDITORIAL: Is feelgood factor on the way back?

What a remarkably resilient industry UK advertising has proved to be. Overworked and constantly in fear of redundancy or a big piece of business heading for the exit, agency staffers keep on bouncing back.

How else to explain why seven out of ten agency people taking part in the latest survey by Nabs, the industry's charity, say they feel as strongly as ever that the communications business is for them and that they wouldn't do anything else. Most feel that the corner has been turned and that working in the industry could again be the most fun you can have while keeping your clothes on.

Whether such optimism is justified is an open question. But why is the feelgood factor making a comeback? One explanation must be the widespread belief that, after the longest-ever post-war recession, things can only get better because they can hardly get worse.

This tends to be borne out by less pessimistic predictions from WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell and Advertising Association figures suggesting that adspends are stabilising.

Another promising straw in the wind is that the number of calls to Nabs from newly redundant agency staff has begun to level off.

Moreover, there's reason to be cheerful that next year's US presidential elections, the Athens Olympics and the European football championships will act as catalysts to get advertisers spending again.

Nevertheless, some significant obstacles remain. The euro zone remains in the doldrums, UK growth is slowing and US consumers are stubbornly resisting government exhortations to go out and spend.

In Britain, advertisers and agencies know well enough that rising levels of personal debt and an end to rising property prices could seriously undermine recovery.

Undoubtedly, as optimism returns, so will the industry's confidence.

Indeed, the Nabs survey suggests that a risk-averse culture is an underlying problem and may account for the general feeling that creative output from agencies is deteriorating.

Now more than ever it shouldn't be forgotten that clients need agencies to give them what they have never successfully managed to provide for themselves.

In a post-recession world, where product parity increasingly becomes the norm, it's the sprinkling of creative magic dust that may well stand between commercial success and failure.

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