Digiday+ Research: Buy side braces for a recession, but with a wait-and-see approach

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

The powers that be have yet to make an official ruling about whether we’re in a recession, but that hasn’t stopped businesses from factoring a recession into their plans for the coming months. Earlier this week, we looked at how the sell side is approaching a possible recession. This week, it’s the buy side’s turn.

Digiday+ Research surveyed 85 professionals from the buy side — in this case, agencies and brands — to find out whether they’re expecting a recession in the coming months and, more importantly, what they’re planning to do about it.

First of all, Digiday’s survey found that buy-side pros are definitely expecting a recession to happen in the next six to 12 months: 56% of agencies and brands said they agree somewhat or strongly that we will be in a recession in the next six months, and 67% said the same of the next year. Meanwhile, only 18% of respondents said they disagree somewhat or strongly that a recession will occur in the next six months, and only 15% said they disagree there will be a recession in the next year.

Despite the apparent agreement among buy-side pros that a recession is on its way, agencies and brands either don’t know what the outcome of a recession would be for them, or they’re waiting to make any guesses one way or another.

When asked whether they’re worried for their jobs or their companies in the event of a recession, not one answer choice garnered even 30% of respondents. When combining those who said they disagree somewhat or strongly that they’re worried about their jobs, just over half (51%) of respondents said they’re not worried. And 45% said they disagree somewhat or strongly that they’re worried about their companies.

On the flip side, only 28% said they agree somewhat or strongly that they’re worried about their jobs if we enter into a recession, and slightly more than a third (34%) said they agree somewhat or strongly that they’re worried about their companies. All in all, Digiday’s survey found that agency and brand pros don’t have strong feelings one way or another about whether a recession will cause them to worry.

The buy side’s wait-and-see approach to a possible (or probable) recession became more clear when agency and brand pros told Digiday what their companies have done to prepare — mostly because the most popular answer was that agencies and brands haven’t done anything to prepare for a recession. Forty-five percent of respondents said their company hasn’t made any preparations related to a recession.

Meanwhile, the next most-popular answer followed fairly far behind, with 35% of agency and brand pros saying their companies have cut travel and entertainment spending. Instituting hiring freezes or slowdowns was the third most-popular answer among respondents, 29% of whom said their companies have done this.


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