For example, during the past seven days we have heard quarterly figures from the world’s most influential marketing services group, WPP, revealing a year-on-year PR revenue (Burson-Marsteller/ Hill & Knowlton/ Ogilvy) slump of 8.2 per cent – worse than expected.
One day later, Huntsworth Group (Citigate/ Red/ Grayling) announced a similar fall in revenues.
Yet in the same week, the third big London-based owner of PR agencies, Chime, bullishly announced seven per cent income growth, mainly driven by PR (Bell Pottinger/ Good Relations/ Harvard).
So where’s the trend here? Of course, if we take a step back for a moment, there is a similar lack of consensus
on trends in national economic performance, with some observers seeing green shoots, while others talk of an enduring ‘L-shaped’ recession.
What we do know is that most corporates have cut their marketing and PR spend by ten to 20 per cent over the past year, which, without a doubt, has put the squeeze on most people working in PR.
But this is offset by some bright spots of performance. There is still enthusiasm by organisations for digital/social media activity, for example, although even this has been hit – and shared among all sorts of marketing disciplines.
Moreover, there are still some regions of the world keen to increase spend on PR – China, parts of the UAE and former Soviet states. This latter category has provided a definite fillip to Chime, whose boss Lord Bell is well connected in this respect.
However, Chime’s performance also reflects the nature of the group, which is principally UK-based despite its global reach, cutting down on costly network issues. Bell’s strategy of a ‘collective’ of lean specialist PR divisions also seems to be paying dividends.
Perhaps the traditional WPP model of huge, global network brands requires a serious rethink for a new world order, both structurally and geographically?