OPINION: MILLS ON ... THE MILLENNIUM

I’m all right, Jack, because my major millennium fear has been sorted out this week. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I know what I’ll be doing next New Year’s Eve. But what of the intervening 12 months? Judging by the convivial atmosphere and all-round bonhomie at the annual Institute of Practitioners in Advertising cocktails bash last week, adland is feeling pretty comfortable about things.

I’m all right, Jack, because my major millennium fear has been

sorted out this week. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I know what I’ll be doing

next New Year’s Eve. But what of the intervening 12 months? Judging by

the convivial atmosphere and all-round bonhomie at the annual Institute

of Practitioners in Advertising cocktails bash last week, adland is

feeling pretty comfortable about things.



But is this optimism justified or is it a nervous industry whistling in

the dark to keep its spirits up?



Here, we get into complicated forecasting games without necessarily any

helpful tools. There is a growing school of thought, for example, that

argues advertising - display, at least - is no longer a reliable leading

indicator of the economic trend. Sure, it reflects what is happening,

but does it reflect what will happen? Certainly in 1989/90, advertising

levels weren’t much of a pointer to the coming recession - well, not

until it was too late. Similarly, we were out of recession by 1993, but

advertising volumes took at least a year to catch up.



But enough of such navel-gazing. If advertising isn’t a reliable

indicator, then what is? It is, truth to say, hard to divine.



On the one hand, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful: interest

rates are coming down and the stock market is reaching record levels.

The retailer, Next, reported a ’better than expected’ Christmas. Others

like Dixons, Woolworths and B&Q are also cheery. The IT and telecoms

sectors are booming. On the other hand, you could say there is a touch

of fin de siecle about the economy. Manufacturing has just experienced

its third successive quarter of decline (ie. it’s in recession) and

one-time reliable barometers like Marks & Spencer are in trouble.

Moreover, whether Britain joins the Euro or not, we still live in a

global economy and what goes on in Asia, Russia and Brazil has an effect

over here.



It’s all rather confusing, but when it comes down to it, I’m from the

half-full rather than the half-empty school of economic forecasting. We

may well be on the brink of a recession but I believe the millennium

effect will be strong enough to compensate, thus pulling us through to

potentially calmer economic waters on the other side.



So how strong could this be? If you think about it, the millennium

offers a cornucopia of commercial opportunities across multiple sectors

- from drinks to travel to weddings to landmark buildings to memorabilia

(just think what the likes of Franklin Mint will get up to) and

beyond.



Unlike the World Cup or the Olympics, nobody ’owns’ the millennium so

there are no restrictions on who can play. Special promotional offers

will therefore abound - indeed, if I was starting a marketing services

business this year, I’d concentrate my efforts in the sales promotion

sector.



And all this activity requires advertising and marketing spend to

communicate its presence. Cynics warn of millennium fatigue from

advertisers jumping on the bandwagon. They have a point but, millennium

fatigue or not, the competitive pressures will be so strong that very

few advertisers will be in a position to ignore what their rivals are

doing.



Have your say on www.campaignlive.com.



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