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September 2017
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Corporate 50 2017 Back to Reports & survey Listing

The Brexit referendum caused client nervousness but it wasn’t all bad. Jon Creamer finds that corporate producers had reasons to be cheerful last year too

The one thing that probably everyone agrees on is that the past year has been, at the very least, interesting.
The Brexit referendum in the UK, the Trump/Clinton presidential race and a host of other destabilising influences added up to a world of uncertainty. Never good for business.
But the corporate production market seems to have weathered the storm pretty well. This year, the median average turnover of a corporate communications company is £2.3m, up from £2.1m last year and the average profit is £275k compared to £244k in last year’s survey.

Nervous start

But, despite the figures, life wasn’t easy.  “2016 was an extremely turbulent year,” says RD Content. “For the first time in eight years we sustained some significant losses for successive months. This was, in our opinion, down to Brexit with many clients putting a pause on projects.”
Most other corporate production houses also felt ‘the great pause’ that came from many clients in the first half of the year. “Many projects were delayed in the lead up to the EU referendum. Indecision has been a common factor throughout the year,” says Cheerful 21st. Merchantcantos too says that “pre Brexit there was almost total stasis in the market as clients waited to see what was going to happen.”


A game of two halves

But most agree that 2016 was a game of two halves. Once the vote was over, clients wracked by indecision started to commission again. “Once the votes were counted, things started to move again and the year was actually not too bad,” says Merchantcantos. “In the US we had the same stasis ahead of the US elections. Again, things have picked up now that we know who is in charge.”
Radley Yeldar echoes the sentiment but couches it by saying that certain clients have “suffered considerably, notably London focused construction firms, and this will likely intensify for them.” However, “we have always found that turbulence and change present a greater need for moving image communications, especially in terms of employee engagement and communicating new strategies.”
Because in uncertain times, businesses may even need to communicate more. As The Edge says: “We feel the market has gone from commissioners being understandably wary about budget expenditure and so tightening their belts, to then realising how highly effective film can be as a communications tool during such unprecedented times - both internally and externally.” Juice also feels that “uncertainty can actually create opportunity – employees and customers of corporations need reassurance and reassurance needs communication.”


But even though most have noticed an uptick in orders over the latter part of the year, there is still a high degree of ‘wobble’. “Companies are confirming projects and then cancelling them at the last minute,” says The Giggle Group. “It is as if plans had been made but final decisions are being overturned further up the chain. There is a high level of uncertainty and clients are worried about making career effecting decisions.”
Of course, one effect of the Brexit vote has been the devaluation of the pound. And those with overseas clients have at least felt the benefit of that. “As a business we are more attractive to our foreign clients,” says Proudfoot. “British firms will be relatively cheaper for foreign clients – if we re-focus our marketing effort overseas we hope to win more non-UK business.” A-Vision echoes the sentiment that Britain, already considered to be a centre of excellence in production, can make hay while the pound doesn’t shine. “As an industry, the UK is ranked as the best in the world. And because of Brexit we are now 20% cheaper!” Aspect agrees. “We are currently cheaper to our international clients, so our opportunity is to maximise this.” But, of course, Brexit hasn’t happened yet and no one can know what the eventual implications will be. “We have found that the business climate has been relatively unaffected so far,” says Brickwall. “We fear that this may be more a case of pain delayed, rather than avoided however.”

More is more

Leaving the wider political landscape aside, there are clear positive signs for corporate communications outfits. The fact is, there is a greater volume of video content being made than ever before. “Video advertising spend on mobile grew by 98% in the UK in 2016 and digital ad spend on video was £1.58bn in the first half of 2016 alone,” says Steve Garvey, ceo of Evcom. “These figures do not include broadcast commercials, indicating a huge switch in marketing budget from traditional media into digital video. The skills needed to produce this digital video content are the same as traditional corporate film, which is great news for corporate producers.”
And that growth shows no signs of slowing. “The market for video and apps is expanding rapidly,” says Headlines. “Particularly with the popularity and increasing dependence on mobile devices, and a growing trend for people consuming video communication.” Guts and Glory also sees opportunity in this growth. “As overall consumer technology and connected devices develops deeper into all our lives, the demand for moving image content must grow across the board.” Because, says Instinctif, “film and animation are the only medium that can truly create the ‘emotional’ and ‘cultural’ connectivity between clients and their target audiences.”
And there are so many ways for brands to show their video content now. “We are seeing more clients wanting to make social content using beautifully shot, heartfelt stories to promote their brands,” says Contra. Quitefrankly says that it continues to see “social and digital platforms as the ‘home’ for our content and in the case of many of the luxury brands that we work with, the drive towards more social content has hit new heights.”

Mobile technologies and social media have created channels that organisations know are increasingly valuable to them, says ITN Productions “to build brand, extend their reach, attract talent, inform and promote.”
Brands are now broadcasters in this new world, says Media Zoo “We’ve found that clients have more of an appetite for live streamed content. In a world of Facebook live and Youtube live streaming, businesses are looking for ways to incorporate this into their communications plans.” The Moment agrees that “we should not underestimate the huge power of Facebook Live which essentially means every brand in the world is now also a live broadcaster too.”


crowded market

But corporate producers aren’t the only companies to have noticed the opportunities, says Evcom’s Garvey. “The number of companies registering video production as their main business activity has more than tripled since 2009. Their average turnover was very low, suggesting a lot of startups meeting the booming demand for moving images in marketing and corporate. So the market is growing fast, but well-established experts are competing against insurgents as much as their traditional rivals.”
Casual notes the “increased competition from all sectors as ad agencies, digital agencies and in-house resources push further onto ‘our’ plot.” Though this isn’t necessarily disastrous, says BMS. “This seems not to have damaged the number of commissions out there. It seems to have stimulated a desire to produce more video content – the simple stuff in-house whilst bringing in specialist producers for more complex video.”

Giving more
As the ‘video production’ world becomes more crowded, more and more corporates are shifting their model, becoming planners and strategists too. “The democratisation of technology for film making means that prices are driven down,” says Big Button. “However, our continued and growing success winning larger contracts which are more focused on content strategy and results, rather than merely production, has allowed us to adjust our offering in this direction.” Pretzel too sees the opportunity in “getting more clients on board with the ethos of content planning, strategic partnership and delivery on annual comms plans.” With so much video content now out there, advising clients on making content that will cut through the noise while also advising on them on where to put it will be of increasing value. Those that can supply the whole package will succeed. As Merchantcantos puts it: “Clients are looking for more from ‘film’ agencies. If you can’t offer more – digital, brand, design etc – you are starting to look a little one dimensional.”
 

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