Gartner finds UK marketing budgets are on the slide – but optimism for the future

Analyst firm Gartner has put together something of a gloomy series of missives around the digital marketing sector in recent months – and its pessimistic look on UK marketing budgets released today is no different.

The company’s 2019-2020 CMO Spend Survey has revealed UK marketing budget allocations are overall ‘significantly’ behind their US counterparts. Yet while spend is cooling off in certain areas, others are seeing something of a boost.

The study, which took survey responses from more than 430 marketing executives across Canada, France and Germany, as well as the UK and US, saw a more than two percentage point decrease for UK marketing budgets year on year. Collating the responses, marketing budgets in the UK now comprise less than one tenth (9.3%) of overall company revenue, compared with 11.4% this time last year.

While digital ad spend saw a downturn for UK marketers year on year, search advertising found growth, albeit a modest one – 6.3% of budget, compared with 5.1% for the previous year. Gartner argued that confidence in digital ads is growing in spite of the decreased investment, with patterns seen more widely across the board.

Martech investment saw something of a fallow year, with UK marketers only getting around a quarter (25.8%) of their budgets to play with shiny toys rather than the almost third (31.7%) of the previous 12 months. Yet respondents believed that their budgets would see a rise in 2020 and beyond, with almost a quarter (24%) describing the prospective windfall as ‘significant.’

This is by no means the only fly in the ointment from recent Gartner analysis, proving that data-driven marketing amid dwindling budgets is certainly easier said than done. Last month, the analyst noted the increasing difficulty of global brand management. As Gartner vice president Chris Ross put it at the time, even brands which might not see themselves as global are part of a ‘more tightly connected global ecosystem.’

While the temptation among many may be to blame it on the B word – Brexit, not boogie – Gartner instead argues that UK budgets have longer-term volatility, and optimism around increased budgets is not politically-centric.

The concept of getting more with less is one that is becoming increasingly apparent. Speaking to this publication earlier this month, John Tyrrell, senior vice president EMEA at social listening platform NetBase, said the tightening of belts was a good time for companies such as NetBase to shine. “Time have changed – people are forced to look at what their strategies are and stack things,” he said.

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