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Survey: More Buyers Expect to Spend Less in Most Media

Respondents Pessimistic About Broadcast TV, Magazines, Newspapers, Radio and Outdoor

By Published on . 1

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Advertiser optimism is waning across all major media categories, with fewer buyers expecting to increase budgets in TV, newspapers, radio and outdoor than they were a year ago.

While that conclusion, drawn from a new survey by market-research firm Advertising Perceptions, can hardly come as a shock, it's far from welcome news for a shaky media economy teetering into the second half.

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"Every conversation that we are having with clients is about what they need to do, what they can hold off on and what are the contingency plans," said Audrey Siegel, exec VP-director of client services for independent media agency TargetCast, which counts Hotels.com, Gorton's and Sun-Maid as clients. "It's not that there is a conversation about not advertising, but there is definitely an air of vulnerability and a concern."

That sentiment was clearly felt among the 1,811 online, print, TV and mobile media decision makers who participated in the April/May 2008 survey. About 40% of the respondents came from the marketer side, and 60% were from the agency side.

Broadcast TV, magazines, newspapers, radio and outdoor were the categories buyers were most pessimistic about. A higher percentage of respondents said they expect to decrease their budgets in those media in the next six months than said they would increase them. Pessimism in broadcast TV and newspapers was particularly bad: 30% of respondents said they expect spending in broadcast to decrease in the next six months, and only 14% said they expect it to increase. For national newspapers, 44% of respondents said they expect to see a decline in spending, and only 10% said they expected a rise.

Bright spots
The news isn't so bad for sellers in online, cable TV and mobile, however. Those were the only three media categories in which a higher percentage of buyers said they expect to raise budgets rather than decrease them. In online, 72% of respondents anticipate jumps in their company's spending; 4% said they were expecting a decrease. For cable, 28% said they expect an uptick in spending and 20% expect a drop; for mobile, 53% said they expect an increase and 9% expect a decrease.

The study also found that the number of brands committed to advertising, on average, is down. The overall number of brands buyers are considering for online, TV and print buys in the next six months has fallen from 58 last year to 47 this year. The total number of brands buyers said they were committed to advertising within the next six months has fallen from 25 to 19.

Ms. Siegel said the decline indicates that marketers need their dollars to be flexible during times of economic uncertainty so they have the opportunity to pull back on spending if necessary. "It only stands to reason that the number of brands in the bucket gets reduced," she said.

When it comes to selecting media, cost/price as a criterion has remained relatively stable (nearly 50% of respondents rated cost/price as being very important in online, TV, print and mobile), but ad results are considered very important to an increasing number of media decision makers.

Beyond price
"We are seeing [clients] asking for more accountability," said Barbara Kittridge, managing director for Publicis' Spark Communications, whose clients include NBC Universal, Virgin Mobile and Travelers Insurance. Even in times of economic strife, "rock-bottom pricing isn't necessarily the driving criteria."

In a telling result of that push for accountability, TV saw a big increase in the number of respondents who identified ad results as being an important criterion in selecting the medium for ad placement. Some 72% of respondents identified ad results as very important in TV selection vs. 48% last year.

Ms. Kittredge said some credit must go to the media brands that have "continued to up [their] game in trying to prove audience profiles and how they are going to prove their ad results." She cited addressable advertising tests in TV as one example.

Another interesting finding: Media sellers are working harder to keep advertisers in the fold. According to the study, 27% of respondents said they have had contact with media-brand salespeople (in person, on the phone or in e-mail) in the past 30 days compared with a mere 14% last year.
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