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How Marketers Are Doing More With Less-Ad Age Feature on RSW 2021 New Year Outlook Report

From Ad Age: COVID accelerates belt-tightening as brands try in-housing, reviews, projects, digital experiments and more

COVID-19 and the related recession forced sharp cutbacks in marketing spending last year that still weigh on budgets now that marketers are going into second-quarter planning for 2021. But while spending started rebounding for most of the U.S. marketing industry in the back half of last year, it doesn’t feel that way for lots of people, especially in big agency holding companies where revenue continues to decline.

A survey by agency new business marketing firm RSW/US finds only 41% business marketing firm RSW/US finds only 41% of marketers expect to increase marketing spending this year, down from 50% last year, but a bit better than the all-time low of 38% in 2013.

Well before COVID, cost-cutting had become a way of life for marketers—and the pandemic has only served to sharpen their knives—accelerating everything from remote work and distributed workforces to more programmatic media buying, remote-controlled commercial production and greater flexibility in TV deals.

In some cases, marketers are just pushing harder on tried-and-true cost-cutting measures including agency consolidation, increasing project reviews or bringing more marketing in-house.

In others, they’re trying inventive new tactics including saving money on market research by putting products for sale in social media without actually having any products on hand.

But no matter how they are achieving it, one thing is for certain: As the industry continues to seek out ways to do more with less, there is potential for even bigger cuts in years ahead as marketers and agencies decide how many people to bring back into offices and whether to renew leases for expensive commercial real estate.

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