Editorial: Sure signs of a recovery for recession-hit adland

The recession continues to be a contradictory and confusing phenomenon. Not least within the global ad industry.

While Interpublic has just posted a $35.8 million loss in the first nine months of 2009, a senior executive of a leading post-production house claims his New York office has more work than it can handle.

And while Publicis Groupe saw significant drops in both its revenue and organic growth, a leading digital creative agency with a presence on both sides of the Atlantic says its US business is buoyant and robust. Just to add to the bewilderment, IPG's dismal results were followed by a "buy" recommendation for its stock from Deutsche Bank.

So what on earth is happening? The most optimistic interpretation is that while the third-quarter company figures reflect an industry that's been struggling with a full-blown recession, the anecdotal evidence suggests the decline is beginning to slow and that better times lie ahead.

This is the view of WPP, which says that while "Armageddon and Apocalypse Now were barely avoided in September 2008", economic conditions are now "less worse". Meanwhile, Maurice Levy, the Publicis boss, declares that "the recovery will be slow, but all the signs we have are going in the right direction". It seems to be the same story at Havas, which has launched a EUR350 million bond issue, fuelling speculation that it's about to hit the acquisition trail.

Of course, the economic gloom has already had its false dawns. What's different this time is the improving state of the US economy, which grew by 3.5 per cent between July and September, the first expansion in more than a year. This is bound to boost global confidence and help other economies, including the UK.

More importantly for adland, the investment community appears optimistic about its long-term prospects. As Deutsche Bank says of IPG: "While near-term data points are not good and Interpublic is no quick fix, we think business momentum is improving along with the economic outlook."

And surely there must be a limit to the time any client can keep reining in its adspend.