Panelists Find Little Joy in the U.S. Economy

Still, forecaster predicts growth in ad spend

Pretty dismal and somewhat anemic was how ZenithOptimedia's Tim Jones described the U.S. economy during an Advertising Week financial forecast panel discussion today. 

That's hardly cause for joy but panelists from the Association of National Advertisers, Google, and PricewaterhouseCoopers stressed that the indicators today are less dire than they were in 2008 and, barring any catastrophic events of the magnitude of Lehman Brothers collapsing, the U.S.—and the world—just may avoid a recessionary double-dip. ZenithOptimedia, for one, now projects global ad spending growth of 5.3 percent next year, albeit down from its July forecast of 5.9 percent. The 2012 growth forecast for North America is less bullish, at 3.6 percent.

Of course, should the debt crisis in Europe spread to more countries, all bets are off. Then companies will once again face hard questions about how much to spend on marketing and where to allocate those dollars. Such questions may have already crept into their budget planning meetings for next year.

"If that trip wire gets hit, a very rapid backpedaling in investment" will occur, predicted Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA.

Ah, but the world market is anything but uniform, with some economies, particularly in Latin America and Asia, continuing to grow. So, the challenge to marketers and their agencies may just turn out to be "how to move the money around the world faster," said Russ Sapienza of PwC. 

Sapienza described the art of reallocating funds by region as "boring and less sexy," but obviously necessary if marketers are to use that "last gallon of gas more efficiently." Interesting choice of metaphor.