New-business market improves as clients move out of crisis mode

Appointments fell by 24.8% year on year in first nine months of 2020.

Three: one of four brands with media budgets above £20m to make appointment in 2020
Three: one of four brands with media budgets above £20m to make appointment in 2020

The decreasing rate of new-business appointments is beginning to ease with a 24.8% year-on-year fall over the first nine months of the year, the latest AAR New Business Pulse shows.

The news will be welcomed across adland as new business stalled during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Campaign reported in July that new-business appointments were down 44% for the first half of the year.

Victoria Fox, chief executive of AAR, said: "What is clear, as lockdown has progressed, is that brand owners and marketers have started to move out of crisis mode and tackle longer-term challenges including internal restructures and what they need from agency partners."

She suggested that marketers are assessing their brand strategy, production and digital infrastructure to improve the ability to pitch externally during the pandemic.

"In previous years, we would normally have expected to see a burst of pitching activity in September, leading to appointments before year-end," Fox said.

"This spike has not materialised in any considerable way and therefore the 2020 new-business market is very likely to remain significantly down year on year."

AAR's research shows that the number of advertising appointments between January and September decreased 34.4%. Only four brand owners (Halifax, Three, Very and Walkers) had budgets of more than £20m, compared with eight during the same period last year.

Following suit with the first six months of 2020, integrated accounts (those including at least three disciplines) were the only category not to experience a fall, which AAR said is partially due to the government's lockdown campaigns.

Many reviews are taking longer to complete in the aftermath of the UK's initial lockdown in March, with some, including Deliveroo,, Transport for London and Tui, yet to conclude their pitches for creative agencies.

Media agency wins also dropped by 22.9%, in spite of appointments by the BBC, Costa, Deliveroo, Diageo, Duracell, Emirates, Kraft Heinz, Vision Express and Zoopla, among others.

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