Publishers upbeat but cautious at ABM management meeting

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Chicago--The persistent and virulent b-to-b advertising recession has been a major topic of discussion at the American Business Media’s annual Top Management meeting, which began Monday and wraps up today.

While the mood of the conference was as upbeat as it has been in the past year-and-a-half, a feeling of caution still dominates among the b-to-b media company managers and publishers making up the bulk of the attendees.

Lauren Rich Fine, first VP-managing director of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.’s corporate strategy and research department, addressed the group, assuring attendees that the decline in b-to-b ad pages isn’t as poisonous as the nearly 20 percent drop across the board seems to indicate. The page decline is very similar to the b-to-b recession of the early 1990s, if the evaporation of dot-com advertising that made 2000 and the early part of 2001 look so strong is taken into account, Fine said.

Uncertainty, however, lingers about when ad spending will pick up among b-to-b companies. Julie Rieger, senior VP-global media director at Publicis Groupe, which handles Hewlett-Packard Co.’s media, said she didn’t see a technology rebound on the horizon.

Perhaps the most startling, if anecdotal, evidence that it may take a while for b-to-b advertising to bounce back was the revelation by Dawn DiMartino, director-integrated marketing communications for AT&T Business, that her marketing budget has dwindled from $40 million to $11 million over the past few years.

--Sean Callahan

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