GroupM’s Goldstein: Client Spending Will ‘Stay the Course’ in ’09

NEW YORK Marc Goldstein, president and CEO of media agency conglomerate GroupM North America, said he is confident that many companies would not cut back on advertising in 2009, despite the troubled economic conditions.

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Speaking at a second-day session during Advertising Week, Goldstein said while “it’s premature to make any rash judgments” based on the economic events of the past 10 days and that every marketer will be in for a “rocky road,” he doesn’t believe companies will make any “rash decisions to cut ad spending.”

Right now he believes most companies will “stay the course” and whatever happens down the road with the economy “will affect each company differently.”

But Goldstein said it’s his impression marketers might have finally followed advice that media agencies have proffered for many years. That is, in tough economic times, clients should continue to spend dollars on advertising to maintain their market share.

“In the past, we have always recommended to our clients that in a down economy they maintain ad spending so that they would not lose market share and have to eventually spend more to reestablish their brands,” he said. “In the past, clients didn’t heed that, but over time they’ve learned their lesson. That message to clients today resonates more. They really do recognize that if they cut back on marketing, it will be harder to recover later.”

Goldstein, who as head of GroupM in the U.S., oversees media shops MindShare, Mediaedge:cia and MediaCom, said media agencies today must be more than just buying services. “We must be involved in the strategic planning process,” he said. “That plays a critical role in what we do. We need to have a strategic plan to how we market our clients’ brands.”

Goldstein was part of a panel that included Maria Luisa Francoli, CEO, MPG; Miles Nadal, chairman and CEO, MDC Partners; and Byron Lewis, chairman and CEO, Uniworld Group.

Nadal agreed with Goldstein that marketers would not be making rash judgments this time. “I think clients still have substantial budgets, but they are trying to figure out how to spend them,” he said. “There is money available for 2009. Some companies will spend more than others, and in every category there will be winners and losers.”

Lewis said it is important during these challenged economic times that marketers not forget the “low-hanging fruit,” i.e., African-American, Hispanic and Asian consumers, who have massive combined spending power. He urged marketers to make sure they “add multicultural to the conversation.”

Francoli said marketers should also consider social media when planning campaigns, saying that while sites like YouTube and MySpace are not “measured media,” they do reach a huge number of consumers in a nontraditional way.