The Ad Market

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Help (wanted): U.S. ad agency employment held steady in December after a generally down year. But as agency consolidation continues with the folding of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Bozell into Lowe Worldwide, numbers could drop more into 2003. Annual agency employment-an average of the number of employees each month-last year fell to 182,400 from 194,400 in 2001. That wiped out all employment gains since 1999, when the industry employed 185,100 people. Agency staffing last year fell 6.2%. That's the biggest drop since 1991, when agencies cut 6.4% of jobs due to effects of the recession and the Gulf War.

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Hans Blix moves markets: The weapons inspector's report to the United Nations seemed to bring some relief to war worries that have haunted the market for a month. Stocks rallied after his Feb. 14 report and broke a four-week losing streak. That came despite more bad economic news, including a drop in the University of Michigan consumer confidence index to its lowest level in more than nine years. For the week, 20 AdMarket stocks were up and 29 were down. Viacom remained unchanged after it posted strong fourth-quarter results, while its cable business fell below expectations.

Media stocks bounced up along with the market. Agency stocks dropped after Publicis Groupe and Havas posted weak fourth-quarter 2002 revenue (See The Week, P. 14). After announcing an agreement with lenders, Interpublic Group of Cos. hit a 10-year low of $8.60 at mid-week before recovering some ground late week (See story, P. 1).

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