Most of adland's inhabitants would like to obliterate 2001 from
their memories. Client spending slashed, agency jobs axed and bad news
which seemed to stretch well into the gloomy distance. So is there any
reason for agencies to believe that the new year will be an improvement
on the one now happily consigned to history?
Perhaps. The recovery - if it can even be called such - is barely at
green shoots stage and still highly vulnerable to a sharp frosty
Yet there's no reason to greet 2002 with the kind of foreboding that
2001 precipitated. At that time the reasons for pessimism were soundly
The soaraway growth of 2000, artificially inflated by ephemeral dotcom
budgets, couldn't be sustained. And when corporate over-investment,
particularly in technology sectors, put the US economy on the slide, it
was painfully clear what the outcome would be for a global marketing
communications industry now 70 per cent under US control. Twelve months
on, there's a case for cautious optimism.
A number of big Madison Avenue agencies saw their fortunes improve in
the fourth quarter while major US retailers, including Wal-Mart, ended
2001 with better-than-expected sales figures.
Don't get carried away though. Large discounts offered to US shoppers
distort the figures and will harm profits. Nor should UK agency chiefs
now detecting less inclination by clients to postpone spending deceive
themselves that a return of the good life is imminent.
Renewed growth will be patchy at best. Some sectors are already starting
to power ahead. Asda, the supermarket chain, has seen customer
transactions grow by 11 per cent in the past few months. And it's not
However, other advertisers may have further pain to endure. Car
manufacturers will almost certainly suffer further as City bonuses fail
to be paid and unemployment rises. So will travel companies, as family
holidays are sacrificed in order to pay off credit card debts.
But let's keep 2001 in perspective. Had it not been for the distorted
growth of the previous 12 months, the year would have seemed far more
normal. Jobs have been lost yet there's good reason to suppose that,
with agencies already running as lean as possible, hiring will resume as
economic conditions improve.
So good luck and continued success to Mother, Campaign's choice as
Agency of the Year. It has proved resiliant, resourceful and highly
creative through the worst of times.
May it prove a great ambassador for the industry if and when the best of