Brien Braces for ‘Modest’ Ad Spending Decline

NEW YORK Nick Brien, CEO of Interpublic Group’s media agency management arm Mediabrands, said he is bracing for a “modest decline” in ad spending in 2009, although he cautioned that the fragile economy makes forecasting difficult at the present time.

Brien spoke yesterday during the Reuters Media Summit in New York.

“I’ve got forecasters looking at this on a daily basis, it’s moving so fast,” Brien said at the conference. “A month ago, I would have said flat spending year-on-year, and now we’re looking at a modest decline.”

“No one can give an accurate sense of what’s going on next year,” he said. “A lot of that depends on the automotive industry. A lot of it depends on how technology fares.”

That said, Mediabrands’ chief forecaster Robert Coen plans to take a stab at a projection next week when he releases his 2009 ad spending forecast at the UBS Media Conference, which begins Monday.

Brien told Reuters Summit attendees that the U.S. and Europe would likely be the most challenged markets from an ad-spend perspective next year while, spending in China, Brazil and Mexico would hold up somewhat better.

Some clients are clearly feeling squeezed and are trying to reduce costs by asking media shops to reduce fees, Brien said, adding that he expects more procurement-based reviews to occur during the recession.

Increased client demand for proof that media are delivering value could also result in the use of more precise marketing techniques going forward. “We’re going to move from what has been a relatively easy mentality to ‘throw enough at the wall and see how much of it will stick.’ Now we’re going to move much more toward rifle-like accuracy,” he said.