It's not time to crack open the bubbly yet
A view from Maisie McCabe

It's not time to crack open the bubbly yet

The Bellwether Report may have found that marketing budgets remain steady, but 2017 will show whether the Leave camp's celebrations are premature.

Alexander Thompson, director of the Vote Leave ads, chastised Campaign on Twitter last week for its "biased reporting" of the referendum, after the latest Bellwether Report showed a boost in marketing budgets. Yes, the pound is the worst-performing major currency this year, but Armageddon hasn’t happened so the warnings were obviously all rubbish.

Just as Harold Godwinson’s troops chased William of Normandy’s down Caldbec Hill in 1066 not knowing it would bring about their own disaster, the Brexiters cheer as the FTSE rises, boosted by the weak pound. Yes, Bellwether reversed its July prediction that the ad market would decline in 2016, but it did not revise the figure back to the height predicted in April (3.3%). Debbie Klein, Europe and Asia chief executive of Engine, told Gideon Spanier last week that she thought sentiment had fallen again since the Bellwether responses were collected as a result of the "hard" Brexit proposed at the Conservative Party conference.

While businesses might be getting on with dealing with the fallout, fears about the referendum’s consequences are definitely still with us. TV broadcasters – which have already seen ad revenue slashed in some important sectors this year – are now bracing themselves for a 5% decline in the final quarter. Sky Media warned last week of "weakness" in the TV market. We won’t get ITV’s results until the second week of November but my sources suggest it is struggling too. 

I hear all this is having a painful effect on some agency budgets for next year. I understand that one shop told an executive who had agreed to take a fixed-term role, with a remit to make some tough decisions, that it no longer had the budget for that position. Take that in for a minute – an agency didn’t have the cash to pay the person it had commissioned to sort its budget out. There are other whispers of agencies preparing to make redundancies and cuts as they readjust their forecasts for next year. 

Of course, all agencies and brand companies are affected in different ways. There are bound to be opportunities somewhere – particularly products or services lapped up by international tourists or those that can be exported abroad. There have to be some winners in any game.

But even if the economy grows comfortably over the next few years, I’ll stand by our coverage of the vote. We may have presented the pro-European argument more frequently than its opposition, but that reflected the mood in the industry. And, at each stage, we tried to give both points of view. We regularly checked in with "shy Brexiters" to see if they would be up for writing for us. That they didn’t was their choice. And what little comment we did get from Vote Leave was hard-fought. 

The experts might not always be right. But we don’t have anywhere near enough information to suggest the battle against received wisdom has been won. The signs are 2017 might be a tough one. But if things are brilliant in 12 months’ time, I promise to celebrate. Hopefully, you’ll still be here to read it.

maisie.mccabe@haymarket.com 
@maisiemccabe