Zenith elevates forecast for '03

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ZenithOptimedia is upgrading its U.S. ad-spending forecast for 2003, a year marked by a struggling economy and war.

The quarterly update of Zenith's global ad-expenditure forecast issued in December 2002, to be released today, also predicts Europe will have a worse year than anticipated.

For the U.S., however, Zenith raised the forecast from 1.9% to 2.2% growth this year, noting that the ad industry is "uncharacteristically becalmed" as the U.S. fails to enter a real recovery. However, there is a caveat.

"We qualify our forecast with the risk that prolonged war would gravely damage advertiser confidence," said Adam Smith, Zenith's head of knowledge management. "A swift conclusion would do the opposite, and in particular make an already firm upfront market tighter still."

Zenith is owned 75% by Publicis Groupe and 25% by Cordiant Communications Group.

In Europe's top five markets-the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy-Zenith is slashing its growth forecast for 2003 from 1.8% to 0.4%. Germany will be the hardest hit, with a decline of about 0.9% in 2003 ad spending, downgraded into negative territory from Zenith's December forecast of 1% growth.

Overall, the U.S., five European countries and Japan-accounting for more than 70% of all ad expenditures worldwide-will see growth of 1.5% this year, up from a drop of 0.8% in 2002, according to Zenith. The forecast for 2004 looks brighter, with estimated growth in ad spending of 3.8%, led by the U.S. with the biggest increase, 4.5%, in a year with both presidential elections and the Olympic Games. (For more, see AdAge.com QwikFIND aao57k).

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