Leader: High-street dip offset by new media boost

We continue to get mixed messages about the buoyancy of the market for PR. On the one hand, PRWeek’s annual Top 150 Consultancies report – published with this issue – suggests that the spend through agencies is substantially up on 2002, and most consultancies entering the table report healthy growth in fee income.

But in the same week, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell said the latest quarterly Bellwether report, which shows the slowest rise in marketing spend since 2002, confirms the UK as 'one of the weakest geographical markets'.

The survey, for the first three months of 2006, revealed that traditional media budgets were cut for the sixth successive quarter. More worrying for PROs, only 23 per cent of marketing budgets were revised upwards for 2006/07, the darkest news for four or five years.

Unfortunately, neither Bellwether nor WPP provides a detailed breakdown of UK PR spend. But it could well be that while consumer product PR, like advertising, has been hit by the high-street slowdown, other areas of consultancy are more than making up for this. Specialist healthcare and financial agencies appear to be doing well, while analysts continue to see marketing spend shifting online.

Bellwether reveals that internet advertising in the first three months of this year was the strongest for two years. And Sorrell confirms: 'New media and technologies are growing rapidly as clients question the value of traditional media.'

Anecdotally, PR consultancy heads report that many clients now insist that new media monitoring and even specific blogging solutions are included in pitches. PR agencies, it seems, are well placed to take advantage of the growing need to cope with the changing landscape.

Meanwhile, there is a relentless trend for client spend to shift into completely measurable forms of marketing communications.

Therefore the challenge for PR consultants, once again, is to evaluate their efforts in this emerging sphere of content.

danny.rogers@haynet.com

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