Drake: Ad Industry Shows Upswing

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. Things are getting better in the ad industry.

That is the prevailing theme so far in opening remarks by O. Burtch Drake, president and chief executive of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, which is holding its 86th Management Conference at the Ritz Carlton here.

“Business is better,” Drake told the member advertising agencies who sent executives to the conference, which runs through April 16. Even the 350 people in attendance, the largest turnout since 1990, Drake said “is proof positive that the ad climate has taken a turn for the better.”

Ad spending rose 6.1 percent last year and is expected to be up 7 percent in 2004, Drake said, “thanks to the Olympics and a very expensive election year.”

Still, agencies continue to face challenges such as diversity in hiring–an issue under investigation by the New York Human Rights Commission–and the continued impact of TiVo and DVR on consumers’ viewing habits, Drake said.

And with dwindling viewership for broadcast television, the pending TV network upfront will likely be a “slugfest,” Drake said, as media agencies must face attempts by networks to impose double-digit price increases for airtime.

He also praised ad agencies for evolving their offerings beyond 30-second TV spots by exploring branded entertainment opportunities and expanding their use of online marketing to reach consumers.

The renewed optimism will be further underscored later this year, he said, with the first ever Advertising Week in New York from Sept. 20-24, which will celebrate the industry’s public service and popular culture contributions.

Ken Kaess, president and CEO of DDB Worldwide, is completing his two-year stint as 4A’s chairman. The new chairman, Ron Berger, CEO and chief creative officer of Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners in New York, will speak on Friday.