Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Written by Nick Hurrell, reprinted from Luxury Briefing magazine, 26th April 2009

The daily news of businesses being razed to the ground gives ample cause for pessimism. Despite this, the recession can be a time when the new models, the new habits and the new opportunities make themselves apparent.

This special recession is no different and is already yielding new fruit for the optimistic and opportunistic among us.

An analogy: if you have a mortgage, and your repayments are dropping you have two possibilities: one, to spend the money you save; two, to take the opportunity to invest that money effectively and reduce your mortgage debt at an accelerated speed. The benefit of the former: jam today. The benefit of the latter: a long-term benefit brought forward to the medium term.

Brand management is rarely a short-term exercise, so brand owners who
invest in the media face a similar choice. To cut budgets now and let those media funds provide relief from other, immediate pressures. Or maybe to do the contrary, as so many of the cleverest speculators seem to do, and invest now to achieve a disproportionate effect. As an average across the UK media landscape, discounts of around 20% versus last year are not uncommon. In some media that discount is as high as 30%. Television airtime is currently available at the rate card of 17 years ago. We even see entrepreneurial media owners who are ready to invest space/airtime in return for a share of the revenues that ensue. This pricing regime will not last forever. Media inflation will soon return. If your brand is responsive to media stimulation, now could be a peculiarly fertile moment to create impressions in consumers’ minds.

Then there are the creative opportunities provided by the proliferation of new media choices. Aston Martin is keen that the lifelong adulation of its brand – so prevalent in the UK – should be encouraged on a global basis. A well-meaning Canadian admirer created a fan site for Aston Martin on Facebook. In short order, in cyberspace and from his bedroom, he was able to gather a thousand other fans around him. On behalf of Aston Martin, we thanked and rewarded him for his initiative, and took control of the site. Less than one year on, there are over 160,000 fans of the brand now enrolled on the site. The media cost of this exercise: zero pounds. This is social networking in action.

The communications agency landscape is changing rapidly too – as the recession lays bare the shortcomings of the traditional agencies. Those entrepreneurs who are creating the new agencies are eschewing the siloed approach so popular for so long, so all communications disciplines are embraced under the same roof, by the same team. Media thinking is no longer isolated from the creative process – “how could it be?” you rightly ask. These moves seem to be common sense, indeed this recession seems to be restoring common sense across numerous businesses, not just in our sector.

So, a time of possibility, opportunity, and even optimism for brand owners, marketers and agencies with ambition. I like to think so anyway.

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