Between the Lines: Bellwether urges diversity

Amid the relief at the continued upswing in marketing budgets, agencies would do well to pay close attention to the latest IPA Bellwether Report.

While marketing budgets are understood to have risen for the fifth consecutive quarter by the end of 2004, above-the-line spend fell (page 6).

Growth in online, direct marketing and sales promotion has been well recorded throughout the advertising recession. But as marketing budgets swell, the bad news for agencies whose business is based above the line is that media budgets dropped in the fourth quarter.

Retail sales figures in the key Christmas period give some indication of why spends toppled; as companies' sales fall, more spend shifts toward cheaper, more accountable marketing tools. No surprises there, really; the surprise is that above the line is not benefiting now that marketing budgets are growing.

The good news is that media spend is set to grow faster than all other marketing categories this year. But any agency without a stake in the DM or new-media industries clearly leaves itself exposed.