Outlook for Ad Business Grim, Execs Say

The housing market has been sluggish for over a year, and the stock market’s been on a roller coaster ride over the last month. But for the advertising business, the real pain is just about to start.

At least that was the collective wisdom among a panel, which included prominent industry executives, as well as a rather blunt analyst, which gathered on Oct. 14 at the Media & Money conference in New York to discuss just how the media business will cope with the current economic downturn. During the rather bleak session, the group warned of a tough year to come in the business, which is already showing signs of softness.

According to Jessica Reif-Cohen, managing director, Merrill Lynch, the past 18 months have been colored by a housing recession, while the past several quarters have seen businesses rein in spending. But coming next: a “long and deep” consumer recession, which is likely to hit the media and ad industries hard, resulting in a “really negative” outlook. 

“I’m so sorry to say that I agree,” said Wenda Harris Millard, president, media and co-CEO, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

In past recessions, said Reif-Cohen, ad spending has been a “lagging indicator”