Monday 24 June 2019

John McGee: 'All roads lead to Brexit in uncertain year for Adland'

If Theresa May could find a sensible solution in Brexit talks that would certainly change our outlook and make for a much stronger year all round. Photo: Reuters
If Theresa May could find a sensible solution in Brexit talks that would certainly change our outlook and make for a much stronger year all round. Photo: Reuters

John McGee

Not one single person of note in the rich and cultured history of China has ever uttered the words 'may you live in interesting times'. In the long list of famous quotes and writings by philosophers ranging from Confucius and his disciples right through to the so-called logicians like Deng Xi or militarists like Sun Tzu, Chinese scholars have never been able to identify the source of this much used and wrongly attributed quote which is trotted out at the beginning of every year.

The reality is that as every new year unfolds, interesting times will always lie ahead.

Change is a constant and this has never been truer of the world we live in now.

From the shaky global political and economic landscape, the threat of trade wars, Brexit and over-cooked stock markets, to the digital transformation of companies, shifting and often fickle consumer behaviours, and increasing global dominance of digital giants, we are already living in interesting times.

Scary times, even.

As we have seen time and time again, the worlds of advertising, marketing and media do not operate in a vacuum. They are not immune from what is being played out on the bigger stage. For many marketing and advertising practitioners in this corner of the world, some of the big issues hovering menacingly over the landscape haven't really changed from 2018 except this time around many of them will be viewed through the lens of Brexit.

But issues like creeping short-termism, increased demands for transparency in the media supply chain as well as more actionable, legitimate and meaningful data to inform strategy, creative output and the customer experience are just some of the burning issues that will remain to the fore in 2019 and beyond.

And of course, let us not forget Brexit.

Likewise, for many media companies which are battling for a slice of an advertising pie that is being hogged by the likes of Facebook and Google, issues relating to solvency, industry consolidation, audience engagement and, yes, Brexit, will continue to loom large on the agenda.

"The great unknown for all of us is Brexit, the most divisive event ever to hit the people of Britain. If a compromise plan cannot be found, then we are likely to move towards a hard Brexit which will be very bad news for all concerned and will certainly impact negatively on the Irish economy. It will further erode the value of sterling and will reduce marketing budgets from UK-based clients who are a major part of our advertising marketplace," says Bill Kinlay, chief executive of GroupM in Ireland, which includes media agencies Mindshare, MediaCom and Wavemaker.

"Brexit has been baked into our forecasts and even with this hanging over all of us, we are still forecasting modest growth.

"Imagine if Theresa May could find a sensible solution, either for Britain to remain or a way to negotiate a soft exit. That would certainly change our outlook and make for a much stronger year all round," he says.

GroupM forecasts that the total advertising market in Ireland will be worth around €736m this year, a modest 0.7pc increase on the €731m which it says was invested in advertising during 2018. The biggest chunk of this - €247m - will be invested in digital, an 8.9pc increase on 2018.

This is followed by TV, which can expect to attract €180m this year, a 1.7pc increase on 2018. After that, outdoor and cinema advertising are the only other media categories that can expect a lift this year, with the former likely to attract €84m, a 3.5pc increase, with the latter possibly ending the year with €7m, up 2.9pc on 2018.

Elsewhere, GroupM is forecasting another turbulent year for print advertising with newspaper advertising forecast to drop 11pc to €140m, while magazine advertising could be down by around 4.7pc to €14m.

The biggest decline, according to GroupM, will hit national newspapers which could see their advertising revenues fall by as much as 11.7pc to €112m. The only other category that is likely to see a decline is radio advertising, with GroupM forecasting that it could decline by around 4.8pc to €63m this year.

"The year that lies ahead will be one that is full of opportunity and challenge in equal measure," Bill Kinlay says.

"Overall, we are set to see growth, albeit modest levels at 0.7pc. Advertising spend into TV, cinema, OOH and digital will all grow whilst print and radio expenditure will contract.

"This follows the trend that we have seen in 2018, the only exception being cinema which suffered a spend reduction in 2018 due mostly to the exceptionally hot summer that we experienced," he adds.

"The interesting piece is the sectors that are driving growth. Categories like finance, FMCG, food and drink are all investing more whereas motors and household services, including telcos, are reducing their expenditure. Competition and specific sector pressures are driving these fluctuations," he adds.

Interesting times, indeed.

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