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'Tis the Season It figures that the coldest among the top-20 ad categories--ranked by size of total ad budget--in the second quarter was beer. According to data from Competitive Media Reporting, brewers actually spent less in three months through June of this year than they did in the corresponding 1996 period, the only big category to decline. Figures for the summer, a much more important time for the sudsers, are not yet available, but indications are that ad spending is soft. The CMR data show that full-year spending in the category dropped in 1996; the data for this year show that trend remains intact. In any event, beer advertising's springtime slowdown was not endemic; five of the ad industry's largest categories increased their outlays by 50 percent or more. The data, based on samples and estimates, are best used with caution, but the ad industry looks like it's getting a little more seasonal. The second quarters of 1994 and 1995 each accounted for about 28 percent of the full year's volume; the 1996 period's share climbed to 31 percent. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? An uneven flow of revenues through the year makes it harder to manage expenses, but if that trick is mastered, the profits during the fat quarters can be substantial.--Alan Gottesman (westendal pobox.com) is principal of West End Consulting.


THE GOTTESMAN FILE
Here's a look at the hottest and coldest top-20 ad categories
in the second quarter of 1997.

Year-to-year Year-to-year
change change
Computers 75.1% Soft drinks 14.5%
Television stations 59.9% Cars, dealers 13.4%
Candy/snacks 59.4% Motion pictures 10.6%
Medicine 54.3% Passenger travel 4.7%
Financial 49.0% Beer -6.9%
Source: Competitive Media Reporting. 1997 Q2 ad spending compared with June '96.