Editorial: It's been a grim year. But will 2010 be any better?

Good riddance to 2009. It has been a cruel and unforgiving year. Not least to an ad industry that will take great pleasure in opening the front door and dispatching it across the threshold with a painful boot up the behind.

If there's been no haemorrhage of jobs across adland, it's probably only because agencies have got better at spotting trouble ahead and reacted accordingly by keeping costs down and staffing levels under control.

What's more, the shrewdest shops will have been diversifying long before now, offering a broader range of services in order to keep clients spending with them. Their reward, when recovery comes, will be that they emerge leaner and better equipped to cope with a business environment that will have changed fundamentally.

But what happens if you've done all these things and the recession remains as unrelenting as ever? If the recovery has begun, it's a very fragile one. Advertisers may not be cutting budgets as savagely as they were - but they're still cutting them.

If this recession follows the pattern of previous ones, then the global economy should be turning the corner now. However, if it continues to be as notoriously unpredictable as it has been so far, the downturn will take the industry into uncharted territory where anything could happen. All that's known for certain is that the way in which agencies do business will have to change and that they'll have to pedal harder just to sustain their current levels of profitability.

So will 2010 be any more cheerful than its cheerless predecessor? It's an open question. The best that can be hoped is that the worst is over, that a mild recovery is on the way and that global adspend will flatten out or even show a modest growth. Unemployment rates are slowing and there's the prospect of next summer's World Cup boosting ad budgets. Maybe they've already been cut too heavily and will be readjusted as recession recedes.

When you've done everything you can to keep the recession at bay, all that's left is to keep your fingers crossed.


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