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
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
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
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
Have your say on www.campaignlive.com.