Belfast Telegraph

Advertising gurus should show skills on global stage

By Angela McGowan

Advertising revenue may have declined in the economic downturn, but there are still some global stories that are worth talking about.

Last weekend around 111m citizens in the United States tuned into the championship game of the National Football League – the Super Bowl. Unless you have actually been to the States in the run up to Super Bowl Sunday, it is virtually impossible to comprehend the sense of national excitement that this annual sports event manages to create. The media air time that is devoted to the event is huge – and this is not surprising given that this one day event is estimated to generate $3bn (£1.9bn) in terms of its economic impact.

Super Bowl Sunday is now regarded as a de facto national holiday by many Americans and apparently in terms of food consumption it is the second-biggest day of the year (after Thanksgiving). Retailers love it. But what is even more amazing is the size of the numbers around the advertising opportunities associated with this sports event. The advertising space during the commercial breaks costs a staggering $3.8m (£2.4m) for a 30-second slot.

The adverts themselves have now become as much of a spectacle as the event itself. Corporate giants, such as car manufacturers, drinks companies and food giants, all choose Super Bowl Sunday to launch their new advertisements. Rumour has it that Volkswagen this year spent £10m on its advert. There was even a "media day" for the marketing companies to talk to the press, show mini-teasers on YouTube and drop some hints about their adverts in advance of the game.

In Europe, the UK and, of course, in Northern Ireland, the advertising industry is nowhere near as buoyant. In fact, Nielsen (the global information company) reports that the Eurozone crisis last year helped to knock nearly 5% off European advertising spend (year on year) during the third quarter. Even with the Olympics last summer TV and newspaper advertising declined.

One outlier, however, was 'outdoor advertising', where revenues rose. Digital screens and better technology have allowed outdoor advertising to flourish. The Economist magazine last week reported on developments in this aspect of advertising with advertisers now being able to switch images depending on the time of day and even fit cameras on outdoor adverts to capture the age and sex of people drawn to them.

Northern Ireland's entire advertising industry is estimated to be worth about £126m per annum and just over 1,000 people are employed in 'advertising and market research'. In terms of data we tend to lump it in with 'professional services' and much of our marketing activity is used to support sales of companies in our local market. However, with the ever expanding role of social media and new technology, our advertising gurus should be thinking about how they can advertise their own creative skills and services on that big global stage.

Angela McGowan is chief economist at Danske Bank

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