The Ramadan drop

The decision makers haven’t come back from holiday. Summer’s still around. That recession thing hasn’t really gone away here. We’re consolidating. And, the worse one yet – it’s going to be put up for a pitch.
Having come back from a brief break, I arrived with renewed mind and refreshed body hoping to see some sort of an uplift. Ramadan usually comes with bags of media spend. And the creative and content to go along with it. Traditional media planners find this time of the year – in our region – a bit of a bonanza. But apparently things look different this year (AdNation headlines a story on Saudi spending going AWOL).

I touched base with a few seniors in the business (not just at our agencies, but across the board) and it’s pretty much the same story. They haven’t come back. They as in the clients who went off to cooler climes, shopping trips and family hols. They as in the ones with direct access to the purse strings. So, no major spend decisions are going through, unless of course someone planned way, way ahead and had the foresight to get approvals, budgets and plans locked in before the cruel summer set in.

This year, Ramadan has sneaked into summer, and most every one who can, have either extended their summer holidays deep into the month of Ramadan or have taken a few extra days off and are planning to come back after. One client I know is holed up in London until Eid. One other will only come back in early September. So, Ramadan ad spend plans are on hold. Meanwhile, I watched on the Beeb how London High Street stores are extending hours and hiring Arabic speaking staff to meet the faithful summer rush from the region. Lucky them.

All this because summer’s still around. It’s still hot and humid, and avoiding coming back here when work is often at a slower pace isn’t top priority it seems. But the industry cannot grind to a halt because the mercury hasn’t ebbed and the fast is on. Consumers have for the most part returned from their summer sojourns – although rumors abound about a summer exodus (in Dubai) and a near permanent drop in the expat population.

And the recession/correction thingie is still around – always available as the first or last resort when it comes to pointing to a reason why ad spends are down. Business news is also rife with talks on major consolidations (read as corrections of earlier business gluttony). What we knew as X is going to be absorbed under Y and then branded as Z. And there’s no word on what’s going to happen to staff in those companies. Bit of a go figure situation.

Finally, friends of mine in the industry are telling me that the latest new ‘staller’ is the pitch. Clients are not signing off on plans, approving campaigns and holding out on all things good for the agency balance sheet because ‘the account may be up for pitch’. That’s the one that causes jitters, doesn’t it? You could recover from a recession, you know where’s there’s summer there’s a Fall (that came out badly, sorry), you know the decision makers will eventually have to end their short term lease in Portobello Square. But a pitch? That’s a whole different bridge.