While a full-scale recovery in ad spending across media platforms isn't likely to come soon-at least not in the first few months of 2010-the situation isn't as dire as some of the industry's most recent reports would lead one to believe, according to Group M Chief Investment Officer Rino Scanzoni.
"There isn't a positive story," Scanzoni said during a one-on-one discussion with B&C business editor Claire Atkinson at the B&C/Multichannel News OnScreen Media Summit here Wednesday. "I do sense there is some stability. We're not going through this free-fall where you just don't know where the bottom is," he said.
Ad declines also differ strongly depending on the media platform. "I think what we've found so far is that national television has been relatively resistant," Scanzoni said, compared to the double-digit contractions being seen across local radio and TV. Those sectors are expected to get some respite towards the middle of next year, when mid-term election spending ramps up. "We're going to continue to have challenges probably until the back end of 2010," Scanzoni said. He also said auto spending, along with consumer retail spending, has stabilized and looks relatively healthy.
The biggest challenges facing advertisers is still consumer spending. With unemployment hovering around 10% (Scanzoni put the figure at closer to 17% factoring in those who were underemployed) he said it was unlikely consumer spending what see a significant enough comeback to prop up advertising in 2010.
"It's very difficult to get them to buy more," Scanzoni said.
The other well-documented challenge is how to get accurate measurements for multi-platform viewing, something Scanzoni admitted the industry as a whole was having "real issues" with.
Online, Scanzoni said clients can measure the exposure of their ads by tracking IP addresses, but the effect those ads are having is much more difficult to figure. He said consumers, who are used to accepting advertising messages on linear television, often feel like digital advertising is more obtrusive-the Internet being an environment where consumers are used to customizing their experience.
In response to a question on advertising to Hispanics, Scanzoni said the Hispanic market was actually fairing slightly better than the general market. He cited a number of telecommunications clients who have a large Hispanic client base as aggressive investors in the Hispanic space through the recession.
Scanzoni ended by drawing parallels between the growth of ad dollars flowing to cable and the potential of similar growth occurring on the Web. He said once clients began to see data showing they were reaching customers through cable, they really started putting money in that direction, "because we got the data to back up that business decision."
"What we ultimately need here is an ability to have one measurement as these things travel from television space to the online space," he said. "If you do that you'll be able to aggregate up those audiences."