An Introduction to Ad Age's Annual 2009

It's Going to Be a Tough Year. Here's What You Need to Know to Plot Your Downtime Strategy

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Welcome to Annual 2009. My colleague Kevin Brown and I have combed Ad Age's DataCenter to produce a just-the-facts issue of Ad Age that we hope will help you plot your downtime strategy.

This will be a rough year, but marketing professionals have been through worse. Before jumping into our Annual project, I spent time digging into Ad Age archives while preparing a white paper that analyzes marketing and media innovation during the Great Depression and major recessions.

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That innovation is encouraging and inspiring: Big ideas can change markets, create jobs and help drive recovery.

I was struck by another point when I read archived issues dating as far back as 1930: In the toughest times, Ad Age wasn't filled with stories about industry executives wringing their hands.

Rather, our past recession-period volumes were packed with articles about marketers, media and agencies doing their thing -- rolling out big and small products, tweaking marketing messages, taking advantage of competitors' shortcomings.

In November 1982, with unemployment at its highest level (10.8%) since 1940, Beatrice Foods introduced Swiss Miss Sugar Free hot cocoa mix. Recession connection? Absolutely none. The point is that in the darkest and coldest days, marketing keeps moving, propelled by both the big ideas that make history and the prosaic, workaday campaigns that sell hot chocolate.

I believe it was easier to focus on the task at hand in past recessions, when the BlackBerry wasn't bombarding us with real-time alerts of firings and economic doom. It's harder to focus these days; that's your challenge.

What to do? Scope the Annual, explore Ad Age's industry databases, get our white paper. We hope you find your downtime opportunity. While your rivals wring their hands and twiddle their thumbs over the latest bleak bulletin from a BlackBerry blast, you can plot your move.

-- Bradley Johnson and Kevin Brown
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