Between the Lines: Adspend figures offer hope

There have been many false dawns proclaiming the end of the advertising recession. At the same time, predictions for growth have varied wildly.

So the figures from the Advertising Association (page 4) confirming adspend for 2004 represent welcome concrete evidence. UK ad expenditure grew by more than 5 per cent last year - the strongest annual increase for four years.

Within the figures, though, are some interesting flashes of colour. The fact that regional newspapers grew faster (by 6 per cent) than any other sector of the press follows swiftly on the back of Newspaper Society figures showing that regionals' circulations tumbled last year.

Meanwhile direct mail, which has been considered to hold up well through the recession, actually fell 1.3 per cent in real terms last year. On the other hand, the internet fulfilled the hype (for once) by growing by almost a half to £597 million.

But with growth back in fashion, there must now be a new focus at agencies and media owners on staffing levels, pay increases and investment. The recession can no longer be used as an excuse to keep a brake on these business drivers.