Outlook: 360-Degree Perspective

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This year's healthy 4.9% increase in first-quarter ad spending registered by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR put participants of the "Outlook: 360-Degree Perspective" panel in an upbeat mood.

"I feel positive," said Steve Blamer, president, Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York. "Clients are doing projects they weren't doing last year." Lauren Rich Fine, Merrill Lynch's first VP-managing director, agreed that while the recession appears to be over, "it is hard to tell the difference. It's been a slow recovery."

One positive indicator is the recently completed TV upfront, when sales for the 2004 fall season rose 14% over last year. "Right now, things look good, at least on paper," said Joe Abruzzese, president-advertising sales, Discovery Networks U.S.

But how reliable the upfront is as a means to measure a recovery is widely debated, especially as other media have not seen the same spike.

The involvement of procurement departments in reviews is "here to stay," said Robin Kent, worldwide chairman-CEO, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann. Consultants who manage agency searches, review compensation or audit agencies for clients won't disappear.

"Some of this is healthy," noted Merrill Lynch's Ms. Fine. Agency "cost structures have gotten out of whack." (Read more at AdAge.com QwikFIND aa079t)

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