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DIFFERENT FORECASTS FROM THREE NEWSPAPER GIANTS
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VIACOM TELLS INVESTORS IT WON'T DO 'ANYTHING STUPID'
CFO Delivers Cautiously Optimistic Outlook for Media Company
CNN-ABC NEWS MERGER TALKS ON HOLD
Richard Parsons Cites 'Very, Very Complicated' Nature of Such a Deal
AD SPENDING TO INCREASE IN 2003
Two Forecasts Predict Modest Growth Led By TV Spending
MEREDITH REPORTS STRONG PERFORMANCE
Earnings Projections Raised In Report to Analyst Conference
The conference opened Monday morning with forecasts of as much as 5% growth in the U.S. market and an end to the worldwide ad recession, but agency executives who spoke later in the day said their companies are assuming very modest goals for growth after being dissapointed this year.
'Roll of dice'
Interpublic Group of Cos. is assuming flat revenue growth next year in its budgets, said Chief Financial Officer Sean Orr. While weak near-term visibility makes it "a bit of a roll of the dice," management is taking to heart the forecasts, and hoping for more growth, he said. Help from the improving economy will make it easier to align costs and revenue, said Chairman-CEO John Dooner.
Publicis is assuming its revenue growth will track the advertising market, said Maurice Levy, chairman of Publicis Groupe. In spite of the positive forecasts, visibility remains low, particularly in the European markets, and marketers' budgets continue to fluctuate, he said. "Day by day, advertisers are making decisions . . . so it's difficult, even with a nice French crystal ball," Mr. Levy joked.
Flat growth assumed
WPP Group is basing its budgets on an assumption of flat to 3% organic growth -- factoring out currencies and acquisitions -- said Chief Financial Officer Paul Richardson. Areas of growth for next year will be many of the same as this year: health care, direct marketing and some interactive activities.
The theme for next year will be a stabilization, with Europe lagging other regions, Mr. Richardson said. He described the process as a "cost-driven recovery" in which growth will come not from top-line growth but from cost controls.