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October 2017
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Corporate 50 2012 Back to Reports & survey Listing

Although it would be wildly optimistic to suggest that the corporate communications sector is striding confidently towards a bright new tomorrow, it has perhaps more of a spring in its step than it has had for the last couple of years.
Most respondents to the Corporate 50 survey unsurprisingly state that the climate is still difficult and feel the year ahead will also be one that will be tough to navigate.
But this climate is now nothing new. Corporate communications companies are pretty battle hardened after facing years of a UK and world economy in recession and massive changes in content acquisition and delivery that have caused the old rulebook to be thrown out.
And while corporate clients look to the bottom line in hard times, so do governments. Much of the corporate communications sector is still dealing with the effects of the coalition government’s cuts to public sector spending. The cuts were both swift and the landscape post COI is still confusing and uncertain. Companies that regularly picked up public sector work have had to shift their focus to other sectors creating even more competition. “The cutbacks in public services have had a huge impact on their communication budgets,” says Straker Films’ md, Nick Straker. “The focus for everyone right now is on the corporate business markets. It is essential to maintain a wide client base as much as possible to ride out the tough times.”
But while a lot has been thrown at them, the respondents to the survey do seem to be bearing up fairly well. The good news is that turnover is up again. The average turnover figure from this year’s survey has risen to £5.57m, and that’s up from an average of £4.9m last year. 65% of respondents said their turnover had increased on the previous year. The number of employees has remained steady overall too with the average number of staff employed by a corporate production company at 32 (down slightly from 33 last time).
The other slice of good news is that the average profit figure has risen after a three year decline, going up to £289k from last year’s £218k figure.
But, of course, it’s not all good news. Despite inflation, the average budget for a ‘moving image content’ project has stayed almost exactly the same at £29k (the figure was £28.8k in the 2010 survey down from £39k way back in 2004). 41% of respondents to the survey said that budgets had actually fallen from the previous year with 38% saying they’d stayed the same and only 21% saying they’d seen a rise in the average budget they received.
Unsurprisingly, it’s this situation that animates many companies. Because while clients are paying less in real terms, their expectations of what they can get for their money have gone through the roof. There are “more clients and commissions out there,” says Jacaranda md, Katy Eyre. “However, they still all want more for less!” And that’s a point reiterated throughout the sector. “As seems to have been the trend for the past few years, budgets continue to be cut back with clients wanting more and more for their money,” says Pretzel Films. “Clients still expect the same quality for a reduced rate and now for a condensed turnaround time,” says World Wide md, Chris Courtenay Taylor. Because as well as expecting the same quality for a better price, budget cuts coupled with unrealistic expectations of how much technology has streamlined production mean clients are also demanding that work be turned round in ever shorter times. “Timescales are getting shorter and shorter.  And shorter,” says On Screen’s Richard Cobourne. “Projects that five years ago would have had six months to plan, now are chopped to six weeks or less. Email and DIY technology is partly to blame - the 5.30 Friday email that says they have a conference on Monday is no longer a joke.”
It seems that the long-term complaint that clients are buying on price rather than quality isn’t likely to go away soon. Many respondents say that trying to explain to some clients that they’re providing them with expertise and experience, not just camera operators, is becoming a tougher call. “Persuading clients that there is a value in quality rather than chasing prices to the bottom continues to be challenging,” says Juice md, Alan Poole. And that’s despite the end result they may get often proving the point. “Commissioners from many companies, even the large ones, simply don’t understand that, when it comes to film, the old adage about peanuts and monkeys really does apply,” says Proudfoot’s Simon Richardson. “There has been an explosion in the number of companies who offer a client a ‘digital solution’ (usually a web site or page), which includes a free video. This is obviously a tempting offer but the quality of the video can be anything from good to execrable. Dealing with companies that are giving away what we are trying to make a living out of is an obvious challenge!” With shooting kit at a price that puts up little barrier to entry, everyone thinks they can have a go at ‘video content’, and are happy to undercut the experts. The difficulty is “getting clients to understand that all filmmaking is not equal is tough in a down market. Getting them to raise a budget when company/individual X will undercut you in a heartbeat is also tough,” says Torpedo Factory md, Jeff Emerson.
Corporate communications companies are now facing this situation head on, supplying the value for money that clients are demanding by offering content that can travel across platforms and have many uses. “We have found our clients continue to be very supportive of ambitious creative,” says Imagination. “But they also expect great return on investment. We always look to deliver creative that can live across multiple channels and deliver social media reach or PR interest to maximise value for our clients.” The future will be far more about “developing assets that will have a much broader implication in the communications mix,” says Grosvenor TV. “More sophisticated use of social networking and the challenges of budget cuts will focus commissioners’ expectations on requiring even more from agencies/production companies.”
Production companies are increasingly moving from simply being providers of moving image content to all round communications providers. “Now we are essentially a technology and internet company whose product just happens to be moving images,” says Andrew Ogden, md of Broadcast Media Services. “We now develop and deliver our digital content via dedicated portals and bespoke apps, we stream, we up and download, we provide content for and manage Facebook presences and YouTube channels for clients and the digital comms landscape is changing all the time. 4G, tablets, iPad and other new generation pda’s means everyone has a telly in their pocket, 24 hours a day. We need to exploit this to suggest and produce exciting new creative comms packages for our clients.”
Because while low cost operators, along with PR companies, web designers and a host of others have strayed on to the traditional stamping ground of corporate producers, there is also the opportunity for corporate producers to spread their wings too. The old barriers between disciplines are breaking down. There is now “more chance to cross the boundary between traditional corporate production and other areas such as branded content, external comms and marketing,” says New Moon’s Barnaby Logan. Clients “want agencies to develop their thinking with them, conceive and develop big ideas and think in a non-traditional way,” says Adam Norris, head of moving image at Jack Morton. “They want creative agencies who can deliver across disciplines and are no longer just looking for production companies.” And so corporate communicators may need to think bigger.  “Brands need creative agencies with proven track records in getting audiences to watch, learn, talk and respond,” says BDA’s Oliver Rowe. “Do they really need agencies with a ‘corporate’ specialism?  I look forward to a healthy blurring of lines between advertising, digital and corporate agencies.”

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