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Going Negative

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GroupM's Scanzoni said packaged-goods clients would shift some ad dollars to retail promotion budgets and slotting allowances -- money paid to retail stores in exchange for good positioning on store shelves. The strategy there: to boost sales at the point of purchase, where studies show consumers increasingly make their buying decisions.

Scanzoni also said agencies would place a renewed emphasis on diversified services to drive revenue growth during the downturn. Among the services with strong appeal: market mix modeling, which applies complex mathematical formulas to show how different media affect sales. Other growing services include entertainment and sports marketing.

Scanzoni also expects major progress next year on the addressable advertising front, where clients can make a single national buy and distribute different ads to different households. GroupM will participate in a major test of this in the second quarter with satellite programmer Dish Network, tech firm Invidi (in which GroupM has a financial stake) and a number of clients. Ads will be transmitted to and stored in set-top box DVRs, based on the unique interests of each home, Scanzoni said. "It's easier to move it along if there is some malaise, because it increases ROI and efficiency for clients," he said.

Consultants are divided over the extent to which the poor economy might trigger more review activity. "My gut tells me it will stay steady or go down," said New York-based consultant Steve Fajen. "I think people are just cautious, and it costs money to make a change."

Search consultant Joanne Davis, also based in New York, believes that will be the case with creative shops. It could be a different story with media shops, however. "On the media side there will be more," as clients strive for better ROI on media buys, Davis said. But Scanzoni doesn't think so. In tough times, he said, "people tend to hunker down, and reviews take up a lot of time and energy."

The big question, of course, as Scanzoni points out, is how long the bad times will last.

Crystal ball, anyone?