Lord Chadlington predicts another tough year for PR spend in Europe

The PR industry will not see consistent growth in Europe until at least next year or even 2016, Huntsworth CEO Lord Chadlington has claimed.

Lord Chadlington: focusing on Asia-Pacific
Lord Chadlington: focusing on Asia-Pacific

Chadlington told PRWeek: "Every time you go to countries like Spain, Sweden or others in the region you can’t help but realise what difficult economic situations they’re in.

"What happens when an economy improves is the first thing that improves with it is advertising – PR follows on six to nine months later. I don’t think we’ll see real growth in the PR business in general on a consistent basis in Europe until 2015/16."

Huntsworth yesterday revealed that it is looking to Asia-Pacific with Chinese partner BlueFocus for growth after a 10.6 per cent drop in pre-tax profits in the year ended 31 December 2013.

Chadlington said last year’s tie-up with BlueFocus enabled Huntsworth, parent group to Grayling and Citigate, to "break out of a dependence on the UK and European economies".

The two firms yesterday announced plans to form a joint venture to build up their international capability, but Chadlington said the venture would not necessarily just focus on acquisitions.

"It might mean setting things up from scratch, but as the biggest East-West alliance of any company in the media sector Oscar and I are very keen to develop our global footprint. It will mean looking for things on the cutting edge of the market."

With Huntsworth Health posting revenue growth of 7.1 per cent, Chadlington said healthcare was, like digital, an area of opportunity for both companies.

Oscar Zhao, chief executive of BlueFocus who is also on the Huntsworth board, added: "I do think there is a great opportunity in the area of healthcare in China. There is lots of heavy pollution in lots of cities and smoking is problem, plus you have more than 200 million older people."

Alongside "projects to expand the Citigate franchise" Chadlington highlighted a geographical shift at Grayling, the flagship Huntsworth agency where 2013 revenue dropped 6.4 per cent to £78.5m.

Pointing to the recent merging of Atomic into Grayling in the US as indicative of a growing presence across the Atlantic, he said:

"It is extremely difficult to build revenues on the back of a declining market [in Europe], and we’re seeing a situation where the emphasis of Grayling is moving more to the Americas, which is a growth market for us. Such growth, as well as the success we are having with Grayling in the Middle East, will help offset continuing difficulties in Europe."


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