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Companies edging ad budgets higher - IPA Bellwether

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LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Companies raised their marketing budgets for the first time in three quarters in the final months of last year, reflecting a glimmer of optimism for 2013, according to a survey published Thursday.

The IPA Bellwether report said 17 percent of companies signalled a rise in marketing spend in the final quarter of 2012, compared with the 16 percent that cut budgets, resulting in a net positive figure of 1.1 percentage points.

The outcome was a marked improvement from the near three-year record reduction seen in the third quarter, when the number of companies cutting budgets significantly outweighed those spending more.

"Companies have grown more positive about their financial prospects, setting marketing budgets higher for the coming year to help beat a challenging business environment," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit and the report's author.

"However, the initial increase is one of the smallest seen over the past 12 years, with only 2012 seeing a more downbeat start to the year."

Growth was strongest in internet advertising, the survey found. Traditional media advertising was flat, while spending on PR, events and sales promotion all fell.

The IPA Bellwether report was based on a survey of around 300 companies based in Britain. (Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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