Risk management and contingency planning will stay

Yesterday's Bellwether Report, which analyses confidence in marketing budgets for the third quarter of 2009, provided glimmers of hope for a media industry that has endured a battering over the past 12 months.

Steve Barrett is editor of Media Week
Steve Barrett is editor of Media Week

The IPA's regular quarterly questionnaire of 300 UK-based firms about their planned marketing activities suggests budgets are still falling - for the eighth quarter running - but at the smallest rate since Q2 last year. There has been a surge of confidence in financial prospects ahead and hopes of an economy returning to growth on the horizon.

Of course, everybody is couching this small improvement in modest terms and they certainly aren't crowing from the rooftops about it. This recession has been a sobering experience for many people who haven't worked through such a downturn before.

Even media veterans who are onto their third recession, such as MPG chief executive Marc Mendoza, tell Media Week in this issue's main feature (page 22) that we may not have seen anything like this before. But it is testament to the resoluteness and robustness of the media business that there hasn't been a plethora of high-profile bankruptcies.

Media companies have acted early and prudently, making tough decisions and trimming costs where necessary. It will hopefully equip agencies, clients and media owners with the tools they need to come out of the recession leaner and healthier, although in a fundamentally reshaped business environment. There is more than £1bn of media business up for pitch at the moment, which means agencies have to work harder than ever just to keep what they've got, let alone think about planning for growth. They are reshaping their businesses to put fee-based income at the heart of their models, rather than commission.

It has been a fraught time for media owners as well, with sales teams staying close to their clients, being extra creative and cutting imaginative deals to eke out every possible penny from advertisers.

The lessons from this recession are worth bearing in mind as better times return. The importance of risk management and contingency planning are likely to remain on the agenda permanently for senior management teams - and that cannot be a bad thing as the industry starts to emerge from its shell.

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