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Survey signals turnaround

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Our exclusive “2009 Marketers' Outlook” survey contains a good deal of good news. Of the nearly 500 b-to-b marketers who responded to the online survey between May 14 and June 2, more than a quarter (26.1%) said their budgets are up this year, and more than half (53.0%) said their budgets will be up next year. Even more encouraging is that almost a third (32.3%) said their budgets will be up in the second half of this year compared with the first half. Where marketers will be putting their money comes as no surprise: online. The survey found 65.7% will boost their online spending this year. These increases will be led by the usual suspects—Web site development, e-mail and search. But note that almost half (46.2%) of marketers will increase spending in social media this year. (A hot-button topic, social media is the focus of our NetMarketing section in this issue [page 15].) Nor are bold and expensive marketing initiatives a thing of the past. Take our stories on Microsoft Corp.'s $100 million branding push behind its new Bing search engine and Aon Corp.'s estimated $132 million, four-year agreement to sponsor the Manchester United soccer team. (It's worth noting, however, that Aon takes up the sponsorship from financially troubled AIG, which did not renew its support for the 2010-11 season.) But it would be Pollyannaish to declare that the bad times are behind us, especially in a month that started off with General Motors Corp. filing for bankruptcy protection. Although expected, the GM story is indeed dramatic. And in practical terms, the automaker's breakup could presage an additional million-plus jobs lost this year. Unemployment has already reached a 26-year high of 9.4%. (Coincidentally, the Vertical Insight section in this issue [page 13] focuses on how marketers should best approach the disintegrating domestic auto industry.) Indeed, our survey reveals a segment of marketers making deep, painful cuts: Nearly a quarter (23.4%) said their budgets will be down more than 30% this year. Reductions in print and direct campaigns are phenomena we have and will continue to track carefully. Handicapping when the U.S. economy will start expanding again—will it be Q1 or Q2 of next year?—is important and will remain so. But don't miss the bigger question: What permanent changes in marketing tactics and strategies has this already long, painful recession caused? And are you ready? Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business and can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.
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