And we’re off. Media businesses in the UK are gearing up for another momentous year, and optimism is undeniably still permeating the industry.
ZenithOptimedia and Group M both expect the UK’s advertising market to outpace the rest of Europe in 2015. During the austerity-plagued period of 2009-2012, few would have expected the UK to be the world’s fastest-growing developed market in its general election year.
Both forecasters cite double-digit rises in digital spend as fuelling much of the growth and agree that, for the first time, more than half of the UK’s total £15.7 billion spend in measured media will be directed towards digital and online.
The UK’s love affair with gadgets, social media and online shopping have all played a part in driving this shift. However, many traditional media owners start 2015 with strong expectations for their legacy businesses too. For such companies, the challenge will again be to strike the right balance between preserving and nurturing established brands while driving innovation.
Delving behind the top-line sector trends, there will continue to be winners and losers based on the strength of individual brands, commercial talent and creativity. Adam Smith, Group M’s futures director, notes that "reputable brands value reputable digital environments", but growth will not be evenly distributed.
The threat of terrorism represents one potential barrier to growth. The reverberations of the recent tragic events in France will continue to be felt far and wide.
Group chief executive, ESI Media
News brands are going to have a hugely exciting year. For ESI Media, this will be i’s first election, and a key time for The Independent with its renowned "independent" political coverage. Meanwhile, the London Evening Standard is at the heart of Parliament. Independent.co.uk opened a New York office this month and Standard.co.uk’s audience continues to grow strongly. We have planned web, mobile and tablet launches for both sites this summer. i100.co.uk, which launched in July, has been driven by social, with monthly audiences in excess of 4.85 million. It’s allowing us to build our reputation for high-quality news while experimenting with shareable editorial formats – and to have a lot of fun along the way.
Chief executive, Hearst Magazines UK
We see a trend towards an appreciation of expert content and environment as context and trust become ever-more vital. It’s therefore going to be a good year for trusted, quality content providers that can deliver scale across print, digital and experiential. Media that can deliver a live experience of a brand will thrive. Brand amplification and events will come into greater focus, as will physical experiences of brands – at Hearst, the Good Housekeeping Institute is a great example. As the drive to programmatic trading intensifies, quality, premium networks will thrive as clients demand transparency and accountability. We also expect the conversation about women’s equality and empowerment to grow.
Managing director, agencies, Northern and Central Europe, Google
2015 will be really exciting yet challenging as marketers have more opportunities than ever to make smart use of data and technology. In my work with agencies, I continue to see groundbreaking outputs in the digital media space with the likes of original YouTube content, collaborations with YouTube creators and innovative display campaigns. There is much more of this to come, particularly in video and search advertising on mobile. The true winners in 2015 will be those who tap into measurement, automation and programmatic technologies to enable a renewed focus on the craft of marketing – to provide connected, targeted, personalised and inspiring experiences for consumers in the moments that matter.
Managing director, commercial, ITV
We begin 2015 with an improved economy, optimism among advertisers, an imminent Premier League auction and a May general election – all of which mean this year will be both exciting and unpredictable. Creativity is at the heart of great media and, in 2014, the bar was set high across the industry, with innovative partnerships, new ways to reach audiences and some outstanding ads. TV will remain a massive differentiator in the ad market – the success of the return of Broadchurch earlier this month underlines audiences’ appetite for quality content; and, with a Rugby World Cup on home soil chucked in for good measure, 2015 is going to be a great media year.