LIVE ISSUE/THE YEAR AHEAD: Pre-millennium angst at bay in forecasts for 1999 - Emma Hall’s voxpop is not predicting a panic, rather a solid year in most areas

Robert Campbell, a creative partner at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, calls the millennium a ’false deadline’ but expects that it will ’precipitate change’ in 1999 nonetheless.

Robert Campbell, a creative partner at Rainey Kelly Campbell

Roalfe, calls the millennium a ’false deadline’ but expects that it will

’precipitate change’ in 1999 nonetheless.

This year, he says, ’who dares will win. People, especially clients, are

likely to be decision-averse but the thing to do is to get on with it

and be bold. But still there will be some people hiding up mountains

with baked beans and shotguns - nervousness breeds nervousness and

caution breeds overcaution.’

Campbell expects media companies will continue to ’gobble each other up’

and some of the larger advertising agencies created by the mergers of

the last decade are likely to resort to the creation of second-string

agencies in order to resolve conflict problems.

As for creative awards, Campbell predicts that BMP DDB will continue to

clean up for its work on Volkswagen and Sony, while he also admires TBWA

GGT Simons Palmer’s ’double life’ spot for Sony Playstation.

Campbell expects the first four months of 1999 to be ’rough’ before

things level out again and he predicts overall growth for the year. He

adds: ’People expect bad things so they will be surprised at how good

1999 will be.’

James Best, group chairman of BMP DDB and president of DDB Northern

Europe, is predicting mixed fortunes for the advertising industry in

1999: ’The market overall won’t grow much and the classified and retail

sectors will bear the brunt of the inevitable downturn, although display

spend is likely to hold up well.’ Best confidently expects an upturn in

the telecoms and computer sectors which, if true, will be good news for

BMP, which has a wealth of high-tech accounts including Reuters, Compaq,

Vodafone and ONdigital.

Perhaps it’s post-Christmas fatigue but for Best, the millennium

celebrations are not something to look forward to. ’Interest in the

millennium will peak at about April and by the end of the year everyone

will be sick of all the ads jumping on the bandwagon.’

Best’s predictions are wide-ranging: ’Government adspend will rise

because they seem to be in the mood’ and ’businesses will become

obsessed with doing business over the internet’. He also expects that

’strategic and creative standards in the direct marketing industry will

rise significantly’.

Best predicts that merger fever will continue throughout 1999. ’The last

remaining independent agencies in Britain will be sought out by

Americans,’ he says.

Nick Phillips, director-general of the IPA, confidently predicts ’a

reasonably healthy year, albeit with slower growth - the advertising

business is holding up well and it feels good’. The initial results of

the IPA’s new census show that the number of people employed in IPA

agencies remains static at around 12,800.

Like other pundits, Phillips expects a change in the pattern of

advertising spend. He says: ’Inevitably people will be worried about

certain sectors like retail, which has had disappointing results on the

high street. On the other hand, telecoms and new media are still going

like a train.

’The entertainment and computer markets are coming together to build new

brands and this will have a healthy impact on total advertising


’We have learned from the last couple of recessions that successful

brand leaders do well to keep up their spending and push back the

own-labels and the also-rans. In the 90s, the whole idea of branding has

been extended and now it applies just as much to Intel, Virgin and

NatWest as it does to packaged goods.

’People will jealously hold on to the value of their brands which is a

key part of their success and the lifeblood of their business.’

David Pattison, New PHD’s chief executive, sees potential for growth for

the media industry in 1999 but is sceptical about its ability to grab

the opportunities: ’There is room for media companies to stretch into

new areas. There are whole territories, such as programme making,

programme ideas and sponsorship credits, which aren’t naturally anyone’s

domain. They are there for the grabbing. The only question is if there

is enough talent in the industry to grasp this position.’

As with the World Cup, a lot of agencies will try to make their clients’

millennium efforts stand out from the throng. Pattison believes that

towards the end of the summer there will be a turnaround in public

opinion, and people will begin to get excited about the date. He says:

’It will be incumbent on us to think of ways of using media to help

clients make something of the event.’

Pattison is on the fence about the recession: ’At the moment things look

OK. The thing about our business is if it is going to hit, it will hit

hard and quickly. It is usually in the first swathe of cuts, and it can

happen overnight.’

Despite all this, Pattison is wary of predictions: ’Our business is so

dynamic there may be a whole new set of issues facing us next year.’

Jo Godman, whose production company had another good year in 1998, is

looking forward to 1999.

As well as decent weather and world peace, her slightly acerbic

wish-list includes: ’Clients will be grateful. Production companies will

make their mark-up. Agencies will create award-winning work that sells

and I will remain the eternal optimist.’

Godman’s more prosaic predictions centre more on ’stumbling on’ in the

same vein as 1998. She says: ’I’m enjoying myself and I’m jolly lucky’

but reiterates the familiar protest that ’over the last five years there

has been a very slow process of eating away at every company. We have

had our mark-ups and budgets eaten away - nobody makes the money they

used to.’

The solution, Godman advises, is ’to have as wide an appeal as you can

muster in order to work with as many agencies as possible’.

She has faced up to the fact that the business will continue to get

’tougher and tougher and more competitive’ and is resigned to the fact

that the situation ’is what it is and what it will be’.

On a final note, Godman confidently predicts that ’there will be as many

millennium ads this year as there were World Cup ads last year’.

Jeff Fergus, Leo Burnett’s group president for Europe, the Middle East,

Africa and Asia Pacific, is prophesying ’unequivocal uncertainty’ for


One of Fergus’s priorities for the coming year is to invest resources

and brainpower in the digital and interactive media areas. He says: ’If

companies don’t build up knowledge now they will risk getting left


We still don’t know how people will use media or how to organise

ourselves around it. The advent of interactive digital media is the

biggest change to our industry since the development of commercial

television. And at least then we knew it would be like cinema and we

could just make films for it.’

The funds for this investment in new media, Fergus asserts, are likely

to come from continued mergers and acquisitions. ’Agencies are looking

to ensure that they have sufficient long-term global clout to be


Size seems to matter and it also provides the funds for expansion and

diversification into new areas.’

On a less expansionist note, Fergus has also detected a lot of caution

among clients and agencies as they wait to see if business holds up in

the first quarter before making commitments for the rest of the year.


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