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'Twas the Season Competitive Media Reporting compiled ad-spending data for 1997, and no surprise, the year turned out well. Outlays across 11 major media were up almost 10 percent from 1996's record. The money flow during the year was odd, however. Traditionally, the holiday-fueled fourth quarter is the year's plumpest, but last year, the second quarter took top-dollar honors. Almost every large advertising category spent a greater share of its ad budget in the second period of 1997 than it did in the same period of 1996. Computers, for instance, saw a massive shift out of the fourth quarter and into the second in 1997. The June period was less than 23 percent of 1996's ad spending for this industry; it was nearly a third of the year in the comparable stanza of 1997. Product introductions and intensified price competition may account for some of the change, as did an absolute drop in spending in the fourth quarter of 1997. Department stores allocated 22.8 percent of their full-year ad budget to 1996's second period; last year, the quarter's share rose to 26 percent. One theory for this shift: Retailers are taking holiday shopping for granted and chasing customers more vigorously at other times of the year. --Alan Gottesman (westendal pobox.com) is principal of West End Consulting.


THE GOTTESMAN FILE
There was a significant shift in the quarter flow of ad revenue last year, with the second quarter, perhaps for the first time, becoming the fattest of the year, displacing the fourth for that honor.

..........1996.....1997
.....First quarter.....22.1%.....21.6%
.....Second quarter.....25.1%.....28.2%
.....Third quarter.....24.2%.....23.1%
.....Fourth quarter.....28.6%.....27.1%
.....Total.....100%.....100%
..........Source: Competitive Media Reporting