Editorial: History teaches cautious clients a valuable lesson

Hold your nerve, and spend through recession. It's a simple enough message, and it's one that has been proved correct during previous downturns. But it's not a message that seems to be resonating much just now.

In a bid to get things moving, the IPA and The Nielsen Company are working on a new study that will aim to prove that for every ten points of "excess" share of voice for a brand, you can expect a 0.5 per cent rise in market share.

This study will join a body of research, plus case studies from advertisers that have grasped the nettle in the past, producing recession-busting campaigns that boosted business. In the recession of the early 90s, for example, Renault's ads featuring Papa and Nicole helped the company grow profits while the rest of the car industry suffered. And during the Depression of the 30s, Kellogg maintained its marketing spend while its rival Post failed to support its brands. Kellogg has dominated the market ever since.

Nevertheless, examples of investment during a downturn still remain the exception rather than the norm. Things may be different this time, according to Moray MacLennan, the IPA president, who says the penny has finally dropped for chief financial officers. Although they aren't yet marketing converts, they have realised that the investment community is on to the fact that maintaining adspend will have a positive impact on a future earnings potential of a business.

Wishful thinking? How many of those marketers in the audience will end up taking his advice? They should. And if the volume of research on the subject doesn't convince them, maybe it's time to ask advertisers two questions.

Could this situation offer them an opportunity to raise their own internal profile by making a real difference to business performance and growth in a pressurised situation? And does marketing have a more moral, philosophical role to play? After all, if the current problem is consumer confidence, there's no-one better placed than brands to give customers back some of that vital feelgood factor.