Sunday, February 8, 2009

Advertisers see bright spot in bleak economy

I was asked to speak at the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Business Outlook Summit recently about what's ahead for media and advertising.

As my colleagues at the agency and I researched the topic, we found some mixed messages — a lot of bad news seasoned with opportunities for marketers who believe in their products.

As you might expect, many reports aren't so rosy. Five of the top 10 categories of advertisers are under significant pressure to reduce spending.

Retailers, automotive manufacturers and dealers, banks and financial services firms, airlines, hotels and car rental companies are just some of the big spenders that are examining their marketing programs in reaction to the current economy.

It may sound counter-intuitive when the marketplace and the media landscape are in flux, but the timing may have never been better for your advertising investment.

"If your company has something to say that is relevant in this environment, it's going to be more efficient to say it now than to say it in better times," said Leonard Lodish, vice dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Randolph Beatty of the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business agrees.

"If you have financing, a good business model and you're in it for the long run, what better timing than now to expand and make prudent investments," Beatty said.

Consumers are listening

Despite the prevailing myth that people are tuning out advertising, we are consuming more media than ever. A recent Mayo Seitz Media Monitor reported the average American spent 3,333 hours with consumer media in 2008. This is almost twice the time you spend at work and even more time than you spend asleep.

Nielsen's October 2008 survey showed an increase of 4.1 percent in television use, and time spent online grew by 5.7 percent over the previous year.

The Radio Advertising Bureau's December 2008 report revealed that terrestrial radio (as opposed to satellite radio) reached 93 percent of all adults. Listeners age 12 and up averaged 18.5 hours per week.

There is good news, if you are a buyer of advertising. Your advertising dollar will go further in 2009. It is a great time to negotiate with your media partners.

Diversify message

Most media outlets speak with multiple voices, so work with them to leverage all their assets. Develop multiplatform programs that extend your message delivery.

And remember that businesses that maintain or increase advertising and marketing expenditures during tough economic times have a track record of winning.

A Profit Impact of Marketing Strategy (PIMS) study of 3,500 businesses in 2002 revealed that companies that maintained or increased advertising spending during that year's economic downturn experienced market share increases twice the size of competitors that cut spending.

The lesson: If you have a good plan and a good product, boldness right now can pay off.

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