A Little Opportunism and Optimism Will Go a Long Way

An Ad Age Editorial

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While the first impulse during these trying financial times might be to retire to a dark corner and sulk, the best business approach is to affix a smile of grim determination to your face and go hunting for opportunities.

You're all probably sick of hearing that the best thing to do during a downturn is market. But it's true. As long as you market efficiently and keep a keen eye on ROI, it's probably one of the smartest things to do during such times.

And though we're no fans of sticking your head in the sand (or elsewhere), there's an argument to be made for guarded optimism.

The stock market is up 26% from its November bear-market nadir. The market is still 41% below 2007's all-time high, but investors bet the worst is behind us. The recession officially began in December 2007, and economists figure it will hit bottom around mid-2009; that implies we're about two-thirds through this downturn.

Obviously, there's still plenty of bad news to go around. Employment numbers (which come out after this goes to press) likely will be bad. And every day seems to bring another obituary for the U.S. auto industry and the print media.

But even the auto industry was given a second chance, thanks to the largess of the government. Detroit, you've got your cash; now use it wisely.

CBS CEO Les Moonves certainly sees Detroit's woes as an opportunity. "We view '09 as more positive, maybe, than most in terms of the auto category coming back," he said last week. He also suggested that foreign automakers could look at the current economic situation as "a great opportunity to get more of the market share."

For the print world, it's a fresh opportunity to look for new revenue streams and hone online offerings. The successful brands will be the ones who quit resting on past achievements and perceive the business holistically. As columnist and author James Lileks said last week, "I'm not going to cling to print if it drags the brand into the grave."

It's easy for a marketing publication to preach positively about marketing. But we're not the only ones doing it. Pepsi, Dunkin' Donuts and others are rolling out campaigns that embrace optimism. While such efforts might seem out of touch with the times, they offer consumers something to smile about -- and something to consider when they are finally comfortable with opening their wallets.

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