Hopeful signs of a recovery

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An agonizing 10% unemployment rate notwithstanding, there's evidence the U.S. economy is pulling itself out of recession. Take for example a survey released last week by the Association of National Advertisers. It reported that while 83% of respondents continue to be pressured to seek marketing cost savings and 59% forecast no change in spending this year, there was a significant drop in those predicting budget decreases, from 39% last summer to 22% in the current survey. Research from AMR International, also released last week, projects b-to-b online marketing spending will increase at a compound annual rate of 12% through 2013. Annual growth in U.S. b-to-b online marketing spending is projected to be 8% this year and to reach 14% in 2012. B-to-b social media spending will grow at an annual average rate of 21% through 2013, AMR said. Last month, Bernhart Associates' “Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report” found that nearly half of the survey sample (46%) said they plan to add staff during the first quarter of this year. An equally positive finding from the online survey of 544 marketers, agencies and suppliers was this: No agency or supplier that responded to the survey said it expected further layoffs. Among employers that imposed pay cuts last year, 37% plan to partially or fully reinstate those wages this year; only 20% said pay cuts will remain in effect. Some b-to-b marketers are marshaling their efforts now, making the compelling argument that there is no better time to grab market share. Declaring that commercials on CNBC and other traditional media were all “doom and gloom,” Kathy Button Bell, VP-CMO of Emerson, said her company had the courage to “differentiate ourselves by showing the optimistic face of global business while everyone else is down.” In her luncheon keynote at the Chicago chapter of the Business Marketing Association last week, she showed off Emerson's new TV spots for its “It's Never Been Done Before Campaign,” which feature alternative rock music. The spots, released globally in nine languages, mapped to her goal of always “differentiating the Emerson brand from our competitors.” Button Bell is on to something, and it's odd, when you stop to think about it, that more marketers haven't made this kind of calculated, strategic choice—a choice to be positive, bold and upbeat in the face of dreary business conditions. Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at [email protected]
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