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Expanding media interests

If recent reports are anything to go off, the Western European advertising industry is in recession. Here in the UK, spend during the last three quarters was down 4.2% on the same period one year earlier. Meanwhile, the last nine months have seen our closest geographical neighbours shelling out 3.4% less compared with 2011’s figures.
The Middle East, Asia Pacific, and North America all fared far better, each revealing some impressive growth. Needless to say, it could be alarming to think some of the most unstable areas on the planet (politically speaking- Syria, Iraq, Israel, Egypt…) can nurture expansion better than countries experiencing economic difficulties rather than civil war, however that would be forgetting the wealthy Emirate states, along with the length and depth of the financial crisis in the smallest of the world’s continents.
Realistically, though, it is a little surprising things are quite so healthy elsewhere given how many problems have been plaguing print and broadcast advertising in many regions, not just Europe. These range from tiny to sizeable, and many can be linked to an overall reduction in value of the commercial space therein. Brands understand these aren’t the only options, and in many cases they no longer represent the platforms that can truly influence the public (and be measured as doing so).
Meanwhile, despite digital avenues seeming to surge forward we are still only just beginning to exploit them effectively, and profitably. And this is without mentioning that big elephant in the corner, with the overwhelming amount of information online meaning there’s far more competition for consumer attention. Putting it simply then, there are unanswered questions regarding just how effective all types of direct advertising are, from page to web page, screen to online media player.
With this in mind- and HMV’s bankruptcy, when it’s most sellable assets are the nationwide live venues it bought relatively recently, as oppose to it’s original concern (those record shops on every high street)- it’s interesting to see global advertising network M&C Saatchi move to buy a 60% stake in talent management firm Merlin Elite. Of course M&C are doing very well, and produce some great work, with the roster of its new majority acquisition indicative of how much money was spent- Jay Kay, Denise Lewis, Jamie Redknapp, Andrew Flintoff, Jamie Theakston, and Jodie Kidd are all on the books.
The faces are besides our point, mind. Because, whether this purchase has anything to do with the challenges all companies involved in media and creativity must face, and will continue to in this ‘brave new world’, or just a result of this offer being on the table at the right time, ultimately this is another organisation moving to bolster it’s strength by expanding interests and offering, notably during a period when most revenue streams within these industries aren’t what they once were. In short then, calculated speculation in the face of climates many less confident decision-makers would be more wary of, seems to be the order of the day.
To say this is becoming a norm or necessity would be presumptuous, yet nevertheless the ongoing rise of regional and local newspaper groups, BT’s ongoing investment in its Vision TV service, The Guardian’s new Australian digital edition, along with The Skinny’s forthcoming Manchester and Liverpool magazine (an expansion of the successful Scottish title) all lend this half-cocked theory some legitimacy… Of course there’s always a risk the more fingers in pies there are the worst tasting the contents will be, but that’s another argument for a different time.

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