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Bristol Media Barometer 2015 Results

The Bristol Media Barometer 2015, sponsored by ForrestBrown, offers a 'year on year review' of creative businesss in Bristol & Bath.

Published on Friday, 8th May 2015

Launch of the Bristol Media Barometer, sponsored by ForrestBrown, providing a 'year on year review' of creative businesses in Bristol & Bath and the challenges and opportunities they face.

We have published our annual Barometer in association with R&D tax credit specialists ForrestBrown. The Barometer provides a ‘year in review’ of creative businesses in Bristol & Bath and the challenges and opportunities they face.

Building its reputation as one of the leading creative hubs in the UK and internationally, one of the key findings of the report is that the South West creative sector is working collaboratively to achieve this success.

Almost half of Bristol Media member agencies surveyed (45 per cent) said they collaborated with other agencies ‘often’ or ‘very often’ with 67 per cent agreeing that Bristol’s creative community is ‘quite’ or ‘very open’ to collaboration. And of those that do collaborate, 53 per cent have worked with between two and five agencies in the past year alone.

As well as working together, those surveyed share a collective optimism with 66 per cent feeling more confident about their business prospects compared to this time last year. Many members also reported that the recession forced them to streamline their business models, and that with the economy improving, they are now stronger than ever to benefit from new opportunities.

“The South West creative sector should be feeling confident; our star is set to continue rising with bigger, better opportunities ahead for all. In January this year, Bristol was named one of three cities outside London with the best growth prospects by the Creative Industries Council. And in February, the TechNation report ranked Bristol & Bath second only to London in numbers employed in the digital economy.

“As an organisation that has long lauded the collaborative nature of the South West’s creative industry, it comes as no surprise that this year’s Barometer reinforces that belief. I think it’s fair to say that we are one of the most collaborative creative sectors in the country, if not internationally, and this plays a huge part in the high quality of creative work coming out of the region,” said Paul Appleby, Chair, Bristol Media.

Other key findings of interest in the report centred around the impact on creative businesses of the rise of the freelance economy and missed opportunity around R&D tax credits.

More than half (53 per cent) of businesses surveyed said they plan to employ more people in the next 12 months. However, 88 per cent said it was as hard or harder than this time last year to find the right staff, with over a quarter (28 per cent) citing the increasing number of people who are freelance or self-employed as the reason for this.

Media Tuesday Networking at Goldbrick House

While agencies are responding, with just one in five reporting that it had 100 per cent full time employees, the report highlighted the need for the creative industry to be flexible and adapt to this ‘freelance economy’ or risk losing current and potential talent.

Another hot topic tackled by the Barometer is R&D tax credits. Despite potentially being able to claim thousands of pounds back on qualifying R&D activities as a repayment from the HMRC, many South West creative businesses are missing out due to a lack of awareness.

As agencies and creative businesses become increasingly tech-centric, it is likely that many would qualify, yet 74 per cent of those surveyed have not used R&D tax credits. However, two thirds (62 per cent) admitted that a lack of understanding about what R&D tax credits are, and how they can be used, was to blame.

When it came to the year ahead, 88 per cent of creative businesses said they were feeling positive about the UK’s economic prospects for 2015, though this is down slightly from last year (93 per cent), a fact that for many was due to uncertainty around the forthcoming election and the direction a new government would take.

However, despite some uncertainty, there is a sense overall, of positivity about the future with many feeling that economic growth represents the biggest opportunity for their business in 2015, with many confident about the role the Bristol and Bath creative sector has to play in this. In one member’s words, “The South West is gaining in reputation for delivering excellent value and proven marketing skills outside of the ‘big boys’ in London”.

“Overall, the results of this year’s Bristol Media Barometer are very encouraging, particularly the region’s focus on streamlining business models to emerge from the recession fitter, leaner and stronger. Despite some concerns around a new Government, this, coupled with the collaborative attitude of the region, puts it in a very strong position to achieve national and international recognition for its creative talents.

“And with both the creative/digital and high tech clusters defined as priority sectors by the West of England LEP, and the creative culture of the region underpinning both the development of the industry and quality of life, the scale of opportunity is becoming clear.

“Put simply, we have the total creative ecology,” added Paul Appleby, Chair, Bristol Media.

The report also surveyed Bristol Media members on business growth, finance & funding and infrastructure.

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