IPA survey suggests agencies feel more upbeat about 2004

Optimism is returning to Britain's beleaguered agencies, with many reporting an upsurge in new-business activity and better financial prospects.

At the same time, almost half of creative shops and a third of its media specialists expect to take on more full-time staff to cope with expected extra activity.

The signs of a more bouyant agency sector come in a survey of fourth-quarter activity carried out by the IPA, the Marketing Communication Consultants Association and the Public Relations Consultants Association.

The report suggests that although media budgets remain under pressure, purse strings are being loosened - 56 per cent of agencies say new-business activity is intensifying.

Almost seven out of ten agencies say they are more optimistic about their financial prospects than they were in the third quarter of last year.

Agencies and consultancies with gross incomes of between £2.5 million and £5 million were the most optimistic going into 2004. Fifty per cent said they had increased their income forecasts marginally for the current financial year.

Stephen Woodford, the IPA president, said: "We have every reason to be optimistic about 2004 income levels and business activity."