Prior to our usual, comprehensive round up of crystal ball gazing at this time of the year, I think it is safe to make one overarching prediction: 2017 is going to be weird. Trump is happening. Article 50 is happening. The French have a presidential election with Le Pen as a strong contender. Putin is causing as much havoc as possible… And with such political turmoil, is it any wonder that economically, the forecast isn’t as strong as it was this time last year (a period which, in hindsight, seemed positively halcyon by comparison), or that ad-spending will almost certainly be down?


2016 saw a global increase in ad-sales of 5.7%, which represents the strongest growth since 2010. Thanks to the economic and political uncertainty that we face, we are not going to see that kind of growth next year. Magna (part of IPGMedia), who I believe got it pretty right last year, predict a reduced growth of 3.6%, which would represent the lowest in 15 years. Western Europe, what with Brexit and elections in France and Germany to look forward to, will be hardest hit with growth down to 2.4%.


I’m not going to write a doom and gloom piece though. If there is one thing I think the ad industry (and certainly us at Hello Starling) is especially good at, it is finding silver linings. The reduced overall spend this year is going to really help define the contours of adland for the coming years, and we can’t help feeling pretty excited about that. Will it, for instance, expedite the general movement away from TV toward digital? Elsewhere perhaps print will truly stabilise, perhaps finding a more harmonious co-existence with memberships and better ads online.


Negativity is in the eye of the beholder, and this is what we see: Lower budgets often mean greater opportunities. Advertisers will have to think laterally, and try to squeeze more out of what they have been given. Formats, especially traditional ones, are going to have work their proverbials off to attract brands and to convince them that their space works. Economic constraints are, in our opinion, directly linked to greater creativity.


All of which is to say, lower budgets in 2017? Bring. It. On.


By Oliver Brown