EDITORIAL: Mixed blessings of Plimsoll research

The Plimsoll research out this week into the state of PR points to

mixed fortunes for the sector. It contains enough worrying indicators to

create despondency among agency heads, but it also sends encouraging

signals that the end of the slowdown is in sight.

It should come as no surprise to agency bosses who have cut headcount

against sliding fees that parts of the agency world could contract by up

to 20 per cent in the year ahead. The data confirms that three-quarters

of firms saw profits dip in 2001. And most worrying of all is the claim

that up to one in three UK PR firms are trading at a loss.

There were wags who answered the question 'will the downturn be U-shaped

or V-shaped?' with the quip, 'it will be bath-shaped'. But the latest

data offers material to overcome that defeatism. Overall, the figures

point to single-digit industry growth in 2002, even though much of this

will likely come in quarters three and four. And several hundred firms

have continued to grow, putting on up to 30 per cent in fees despite a

shrinking market. When marketing services emerge from their current

mire, they will be the winners.

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