Is the global economy back on track? There’s probably no question more capable of sparking a heated debate. But if the optimism of marketing directors in the UK is any indication, things are getting better.

According to the Royal Mail’s second annual confidence tracker poll, conducted in partnership with The Marketing Society, found that a third of the UK’s top marketing directors anticipated an increase in marketing spend in the second half of 2010. More importantly, only 13% of those polled expected their budgets to be cut.

These results stand in stark contrast to last year’s numbers. Last year, 26% of the marketing directors surveyed expected an increase in their marketing spend, and an almost equal number (25%) expected a decrease. The rise in the former and drop in the latter this year hints that marketing directors in the UK are generally feeling more confident about where the economy is headed, or have at the very least adapted to what some call ‘the new normal.

Assuming that these marketing directors are correct and budgets do increase, the increases, not surprisingly, will not be even across all channels. Digital (SEO and social media), word of mouth, and direct mail and mail are favored, while TV, radio and cinema are less favored.

According to the Royal Mail, the channel preferences reflect the goals and objectives of marketing directors today. 43% of respondents indicated that they’d be focusing on new customer acquisition over the next six months. That’s a huge jump from last year, when only 28% were hunting for new customers. Royal Mail Media Director Mark Thomson stated, “The focus of budget on more tactical objectives such as customer acquisition and retention indicates that marketers want tangible results from their spend…

If the predictions for increased marketing spend are good predictors for economic performance, the worst may be behind us. But where the money will be spent in my opinion indicates that the memory of the global recession won’t soon fade. And that may not be such a bad thing if it helps marketers focus on the KPIs that really matter.

By comparison, Econsultancy’s Marketing Budgets 2010 survey, carried out at the beginning of the year, found that 46% of companies were planning to increase their overall marketing budget, and 42% were planning to keep spending at 2009 levels. Only 13% said they would be reducing their overall marketing budget.