Print Still Reigns, but More Retailers Turn to TV, Online Ads for Holidays

BDO Survey: Flat Holiday Budgets Mean a Little Less for Print as Marketers Spread Resources

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NEW YORK ( -- Faced with flat budgets, marketers are experimenting with new media mixes this holiday season.

According to BDO's Retail Compass Survey, 63% of chief marketing officers said this year's holiday budget was flat, compared to 55% in 2009 and 43% in 2008. But this year, just one-fifth said their budgets were lower than a year ago. That's an improvement from 2009 and 2008, when 26% and 32%, respectively, reported lower budgets for the holiday season.

"Retailers are investing their holiday advertising and marketing dollars across a widening set of platforms, as they emerge from the recession," said Steve Ferrara, partner-retail and consumer product practice at BDO USA. "The fact that only 20% cite a decrease in budgets signals that they have a bit more flexibility in how they stretch their advertising and marketing spend."

Many retailers are scrutinizing the budgets they do have and allocating more to TV. One-quarter of CMOs said they were spending most of their budget on broadcast this year, up from 13% a year ago. Best Buy is just one of the retailers increasing its presence on TV this holiday. The retailer, which said it would increase its TV spending by a low double-digit percentage, began running holiday spots on Dec. 1 this year. To free up funds for TV, the retailer pulled money away from inserts.

Most CMOs -- 42% -- said they allocate most of their holiday budget to print ads, down from 64% a year ago. And 27% said they'd be investing the bulk of their budget in online ads, including social-networking sites. That's up from just 18% last year.

Overall, social media is gaining traction among retailers, many of whom still needed to make major improvements to the strategies used last year. According to the survey, 75% of retailers are utilizing social media this year, up from 51% a year ago. Facebook is the clear winner there, with 92% of CMOs utilizing the site. More than 60% say they use Twitter, while just 20% use YouTube and only 8% use MySpace.

"Retail CMOs' sharpening and increasing focus on social-networking sites speaks to the growing popularity and effectiveness of this medium to reach consumers across demographics," said Mr. Ferrara. "The low-cost nature of social networking gives retailers more room to boost their broadcast media investment for the holiday season."

Still, social media is a relatively small part of retailers' overall budgets. The majority, 62%, said less than 10% of their marketing efforts would focus on social-networking sites, while just over 1% said 70% to 79% of their efforts would revolve around those sites.

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