Concerns that the new business market would be decimated because of uncertainty over the economy and Brexit appear to have been somewhat premature.

Figures from AAR’s latest New Business Pulse have revealed that, while the total number of completed new business reviews in the first quarter of 2019 showed a decrease of 20.1% over the first quarter of 2018, it should be remembered that the first three months of last year was one of the busiest ever.

Equally, it should be noted that our data only includes appointments that were made in that period, and does not include ongoing reviews. Consequently, the true state of the new business market is only likely to become apparent as the year progresses.

In terms of specific communications disciplines, in Q1 2019 (versus Q1 2018) the changes in the volume of appointments were as follows:

Discipline % difference

Q1 2019 vs Q1 2018

Total (20.1)
Advertising (22.4)
CRM/Direct Marketing 66.6
Digital (31.2)
Integrated (46.1)
Media (4.3)

Source: AARnewbizmoves

Advertising appointments decreased by 22.4% compared with Q1 of 2018. This did, however, include a number of brands with media budgets in excess of £20 million where we saw appointments by Barclays, GoCompare and Virgin Media. This compared to two in the first quarter of 2018 (Camelot and Harveys).

Integrated agency appointments (involving three or more disciplines) were down by almost half year on year (46.1%); the majority of which were quite small in terms of budget, although these did include the Open University integrated tender.

Media agency wins were also down marginally (4.3%) versus the first quarter of 2018, but did include a number of major brands including Homebase and Which? As the first quarter of the year drew to a close, agencies were still working hard on pitches for major brands including William Hill, Just Eat, Trip Advisor and Save the Children.

Across all sectors, the pitch process that brands were using to make their appointments changed very little in the first three months of 2019 versus the same period last year. Almost two thirds (64.2%) opted for “open” reviews (i.e. considering all potential agencies via a competitive pitch), while 18.6% awarded their business to an agency without a “comparative” review taking place, and 17.2% used their existing agency “rosters” to award briefs.

The first quarter of the year did, however, see a change in the sectors reviewing their agencies. In the first three months of 2019, brands operating in the food sector were the most active in pitching their business. Very encouraging for agencies (and potentially the economy) was that many of them were for brand launches where there was no incumbent agency. The group of brands that provided agencies with the second highest number of opportunities were those operating in the travel sector, closely followed by alcoholic drinks, financial services providers and charities.

One behaviour that has continued from 2018 into 2019 is the pragmatic, commercial approach that agencies are taking to pitching. Gone are the days of “we’ll give it a go”, replaced with an approach which says “if I can’t do my best, I’d rather say no”. This clearly has benefits for clients, also, as it means that agencies who accept their invitation to pitch will be fully committed to giving it their very best shot.