PR sector upbeat on 2011 prospects despite ad rise

Optimism in the PR industry remains undimmed, despite figures showing that advertising has bounced back from recession more strongly than PR.

WPP: Slow growth in 2010 PR figures
WPP: Slow growth in 2010 PR figures

WPP, led by Martin Sorrell (pictured)  announced annual results last week which revealed like-for-like growth of 3.7 per cent to £845m for the group's PR and public affairs revenues in 2010. This was the slowest-growing of its four business groups and significantly behind the 7.1 per cent growth in media and advertising.

Chime Communicatons' preliminary 2010 results yesterday revealed that its advertising and marketing services group saw organic growth of 25%, while organic growth in the group's PR segment was flat.

Taken with ITV's stronger than expected financial performance released last week, the figures suggest that PR is lagging behind the marketing mix in terms of recovery.

Mark Liechti, media analyst at Investec, said: 'The logical answer is yes, advertising is recovering quicker than PR. You only have to look at ITV, which had a double-digit recovery. But in a lot of cases PR spend didn't fall as far as advertising, so there is less of a drop to bounce back from.'

Lorna Tilbian, media analyst at banking group Numis, also remained upbeat: 'You still need PR in good times and bad. The industry's profile has been hugely helped by new media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.'

A PRCA Leaders Panel survey also shows that the majority in the industry entered 2011 with significantly more optimism about their prospects than at the start of 2010.

Polled during the first quarter, PR leaders gave answers to three questions. These showed that 80 per cent of consultancies rated their overall prospects as improved, with in-house up by 54 per cent.

Francis Ingham, chief executive of the PRCA, said: 'If 2010 was a year of survival, they clearly have high hopes that 2011 will be one of growth. But this sense of optimism does not hold true for the country as a whole, which recent disappointing economic news will serve only to reinforce.'

Forty-five per cent of agency respondents felt that the economy, in general, was in better shape than last year, while a majority of those in-house (53 per cent) felt less optimistic about the UK economy.

See Danny Rogers' opinion on the health of the PR market

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