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Despite the stock market's roller-coaster ride last week-plunging 554 points then surging strongly back-advertisers remain confident about the strength of the U.S. economy. Some cited luxury goods as one area that could slow somewhat, but overall a sense of security prevails and optimism about Asia and other emerging markets continues.

"We don't think there's any real disturbance in the market," said Mel Stephens, director of investor relations at Ford Motor Co. "We tend to look at the fundamentals and all indicators are good. Our sales are good. Nothing's changed about our outlook for [U.S. industry] sales."

However, if the market were to dip again, said Mary Ann Keller, managing director and auto analyst at Furman Selz, New York, things could shift in that industry.

"They will cut all kinds of spending, and they'd direct more money [from ad budgets] to direct consumer subsidies," said Ms. Keller.


Intel Corp., in the midst of its campaign to drive fourth-quarter demand for Pentium chip-powered home PCs, is proceeding with all U.S. and global ad plans.

"Our advertising plans are unaffected" by the stock market tumult, said Ann Lewnes, director of worldwide advertising.

Consumer product analysts don't expect the week's market gyrations to have any impact on consumer spending or marketing plans in U.S. or Europe, except possibly for luxury goods.

"People aren't suddenly going to stop buying Tide and start buying [generic detergents] because of this," said William Steele, analyst with Buckingham Research Group, San Francisco.

Most observers see more impact in Asia and Latin America, but not necessarily any retrenching in marketing spending.

"I think the big boys will view this very opportunistically" said Michael Grant, analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities, New York. "They're in these markets long term; it's certainly not a short-term game."

Procter & Gamble Co.'s move to build its South Korean diaper business with an acquisition, announced last week, could be an example of things to come, Mr. Grant said.

The stock-market turmoil could weaken regional competitors in Asia and Latin America and-combined with currency devaluation-create opportunities for companies like P&G, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive Co. and others.

Mr. Grant said he expects the multinationals to act slowly to lower prices in overseas markets in response to the currency changes, but to move prices gradually lower.

"Consumer advertising levels [at the multinationals] will keep up [in Asia], though they might cut back on promotion," he said.

Barring an economic free fall, beer and spirits marketers aren't expecting to feel a pinch.

Such products "are one of the last things to go," noted Tom Pirko, president of consultancy BevMark. "A poor man can feel rich if he buys a cognac with a fancy name."

Financial services marketers in the U.S. are taking advantage of any uneasiness the stock market is causing. Big players in the increasingly competitive arena are working hard to build brand images, and marketing is likely to remain a focus even in a downturn.

"Down the line it's not affecting" our marketing strategy, said Peter Tovar, director of national advertising for the private-client group at Merrill Lynch & Co.


In the short term, a wide range of companies already are using the stock acrobatics as an excuse to tout their expertise and judicious investment strategies. One of the most frantic in responding was Prudential Securities, a unit of Prudential Insurance Co., which handles advertising in-house.

Starting Oct. 26-the Sunday before the market plummeted-the division ran ads in The New York Times touting bond funds as an option for queasy investors. On Oct. 28, the company launched a TV ad with the line, "The market is volatile but your investment strategy shouldn't be."

"It's a period of time where people are reassessing" their investment strategy, said Michael Hines, VP-marketing for Prudential Insurance.

Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, ran a newspaper ad from agency Bozell, New York, headlined, "Making sense of the market." It outlined reasons for confidence in the U.S. economy, despite the stock turbulence.

Fidelity Investments ran an old ad from Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, about the growth of the market in the past 50 years and the importance of long-term investing.

Contributing: Jack Neff, James B. Arndorfer, Jean Halliday, Bradley Johnson.

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