Media conference attendees see slower advertising growth

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Attendees at the opening sessions of this year's UBS Warburg Media Conference in New York Dec. 4 heard forecasters speak of slowing ad growth prospects for the foreseeable future-though they stuck to the phrase "soft landing" and stressed repeatedly no signs of a recession loomed. Universal McCann Senior VP-Director of Forecasting Robert Coen said total U.S. ad revenue for 2000 is projected to hit $236.3 billion, marking a 9.8 percent gain over 1999. In 2001, Mr. Coen projected, ad spending will increase 5.7 percent to $250 billion.Mr. Coen, who undershot ad growth for the fourth year in a row by guessing last year that 2000's growth rate would be 8.3 percent, said the driver for this year's stunning results was stronger-than-expected national advertising-up 11.8 percent, boosted by hotly contested elections and September's Sydney Olympics. At the same time, local advertising was up only 6.8 percent.

John Perriss, chairman-CEO of Zenith Media, said: "If the U.S. catches a cold, then the rest of the world catches the flu. The U.S. shows no signs of having a cold." Mr. Perriss' figures showed ad spending growth in both Europe and the U.S. peaking in 1999 at 8.8 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, while slowing slightly this year to 8.6 percent and 8.1 percent. Overall North American growth, Mr. Perriss said, will slow to 4.7 percent in 2001 and be just over 5 percent for 2002 and 2003. Europe will post a 6.7 percent gain in 2001, slowing slightly to 6.3 percent and 5.6 percent in 2002 and 2003. Mr. Perriss also expressed faith in ongoing strong growth of outdoor advertising, as time-crunched consumers spend less time at home.

Broadcasters were more bullish. Viacom Chairman-CEO Sumner Redstone said 95 percent of CBS' first-quarter prime time inventory is sold out and that Viacom ad revenue would be up 13 percent in 200o. The prospect of a writers strike next year left Mr. Redstone "concerned," but he added he felt his company was "in good shape" should anything happen. David Poltrack, exec VP-planning and research for CBS, preened during his presentation for aggressively forecasting-correctly-a 13 percent to 15 percent gain in network TV ad spending from 1999 to 2000. He predicted 1 7 percent gain for 2001 at the networks, and attributed the fourth quarter's noticeably soft "scatter" market to be a hangover from intensive Olympic spending in September, which mirrored what happened in 1988, he said.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Chairman-CEO Martha Stewart said her flagship magazine was likely to expand its special issues into the new areas of home and technology and kids, as well as building on the holiday special issue published for Halloween. Ms. Stewart also screened a skit excerpt from her upcoming Christmas special, in which she performs with her "Saturday Night Life" parodist Ana Gasteyer "I got to parody the parodist," Ms. Stewart joked. "She could not do two things at the same time. She left feeling a little bit inadequate."

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