Marketers making far fewer agency hires, AAR finds

The total number of completed new-business pitches in the first half of 2016 dropped by 11.7% compared with the same period last year.

AAR’s latest New Business Pulse, released today (Thursday), has shown that completed advertising reviews have taken the biggest tumble at 18.3%. But other sectors have also slowed – CRM/direct marketing pitches were down 6.6%, digital 7.6% and media 7%. Only the number of integrated pitches remained the same as 2015. 

Kerry Glazer, chief executive of AAR, said: "It is too early to jump to conclusions about the health of the new-business market in 2016 as the figures only relate to completed reviews. Having said that, the uncertainty and faltering confidence caused by the recent Brexit vote is unlikely to prove to be good news for new-business volumes."

In the advertising sector, despite a fall in the total number of completed reviews, the number of pitches for bigger clients – whose adspend is more than £20m – was the same as last year. These pitches included Aldi, Asda,, Dreams, Morrisons, Paddy Power Betfair, The Co-operative Group and Transport for London. 

WCRS chief executive Matt Edwards said that although there has not been the same volume of pitches, the first six months of this year have offered good opportunities for agencies. This is particularly true in the supermarket sector, with four major companies appointing shops and Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer kicking off pitches. 

But with uncertainty during the run-up to the European Union vote and around the result, this may have stopped some smaller pitches from going ahead. "Clients don’t like to change agencies when there are other things going on that could unsettle the business," Edwards said. 

Red Brick Road chief executive David Miller agreed: "It was clear back in January that this would be a year of quite significant economic change with the London mayoral elections, referendum vote and US election. 

"Understandably, there has been some inertia among clients who are waiting to see what happens with these big external changes before they make any big changes of their own, such as calling pitches."

In the media sector, the recent pitch frenzy of Mediapalooza has seemingly abated. Although the number of reviews were down in the first half of the year, there have been notable big-budget reviews including Asda, Aviva, E.ON, Paddy Power Betfair and Volkswagen.

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