US president Barack Obama politely and clearly warned the UK business community that an exit from the European Union would not be quickly repaired with a unilateral trade deal, but anyone doubting the impact of a Brexit on the UK agency business need look no further than their own new business pipelines.
Clients across the board are delaying decisions, scrutinising budgets and generally hedging their bets as they await the outcome of the EU referendum this June. This is particularly true for those in sectors with longer business cycles – manufacturing, energy or pharmaceuticals, among others, but even the fast-movers of technology, consumer goods and financial services are slowing down ever so slightly until a clearer outlook emerges.
And lest we assume this is a worry confined to the big international players, colleagues from agencies of all sizes confide privately that there’s a certain level of uncertainty in the market that makes it increasingly difficult to accurately project growth and revenue the last two quarters of the year.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the clarity of Leave vote will suddenly unlock a flood of investment in the UK market. But I doubt such a decision will be clear, or that an exit would be swift; uncertainty will linger like a hangover.
We will of course help our clients manage the outcome of either decision, and some of us will find opportunity arising from the electorate no matter the outcome.
But for the majority of us running or owning agencies, the sooner this uncertainty passes, the better.