Strong results from listed PR companies shows the theory that below-the-line communication performs more strongly than traditional advertising is now becoming a reality, according to Lord Bell.
'All the market indicators and general commentaries say the market is terrible, but our results for 2008 are the best we have ever had,' he said.
He conceded financial PR had been badly hit by the downturn, but said other areas of PR - particularly geo-political work and public affairs - were picking up the slack.
'There is no doubt the market has turned down, but those areas hurt most have been compensated for by other business growing faster,' said Bell. 'The first quar-ter of 2009 reaffirms that picture.'
However, other agency sources warned a 'lag effect' in the industry could mean the full impact of the downturn will take longer than expected to be fully realised.
WPP's Martin Sorrell said: 'PR and PA (along with some other disciplines) show relative strength while advertising, branding and identity and specialist comms remain under the greatest pressure.'
Sorrell said the increasing importance of social media had also benefited PR, but not the ad industry.