Opinion: Perspective - Belt up and get ready to brazen out the downturn

I cannot quite work out whether a Nabs gathering was an entirely appropriate moment for resounding pessimism about adland's immediate future.

But Sir Martin Sorrell's predictions at the charity's shindig on Monday evening certainly underlined the need for a charity to help support advertising executives through times of hardship.

According to Sorrell, we're in for at least another 15 months of gloom and the crisis that has engulfed the world's financial markets over recent weeks will harden the challenges that were already setting in for adland for 2009.

When Sorrell uses words such as "terrifying" and "terribly upsetting", it's time to take notice. Even more importantly, it's time to take action.

Reading our feature "Dealing With The Downturn" on page 24 is a good place to start. Plenty of the people offering advice there have been through at least one adland downturn. And survived.

The advice they offer wavers from avoid pessimism because it breeds paralysis, to embrace pessimism so that you're prepared for the worst. But it's also clear from the comments that when the going gets tough, the need for a point of differentiation from the pack becomes greater than ever.

The ad agency marketplace is ridiculously over supplied, with too many bland agencies providing a similar level of service and creativity. Finding a point of difference, though, is tougher than ever. Which is why one of the consistent strings of advice is to continue investing in people, in talent, because often it's your best people that are your only standout.

Focusing on, and continuing to nurture, the best people you have and making sure they're continuing to deliver the best possible service to your customers is crucial.

But so, too, is helping those people that aren't quite the best, the people who will inevitably be finding themselves out of a job over the next year or so. Which brings us back to Nabs and the small matter of the £2.2 million it needs to sustain its activities, even without a new influx of redundant workers seeking help. As agencies tighten their own budgets it's vital that they continue to give Nabs the support that it needs.

News that Dairy Milk has lost market share to Galaxy has tediously reopened the debate about whether "gorilla" was a triumph of creative style over sales substance.

You might have thought this one was nailed back last autumn when Cadbury revealed figures showing value sales of Dairy Milk up 7 per cent, weekly sales up 9 per cent year on year during the period "gorilla" was on air, and the highest recognition scores ever recorded for an ad by Hall & Partners. Cadbury was in no doubt that it worked.

Now TNS's biggest brands survey, published in this week's Marketing magazine, shows Dairy Milk has grown at less than the 2 per cent market rate. Its rival Galaxy is up 12 per cent, although its £80 million sales value is still a crumb compared with Dairy Milk's £200 million.

So did "gorilla" work or not? Despite what might have looked like a cut-and-dried case last autumn, the ad has not been shortlisted for the forthcoming IPA Effectiveness Awards. But prod the awards judges and they might tell you privately that the paper was badly written and if it had a strong case, it failed to make it compellingly.

And Dairy Milk has grown share, without some high-profile advertising it might not have done so. The value of Cadbury's shares were dramatically up. The ad ignited a new advertising sensibility at Cadbury, which should continue to pay dividends. And it did a service to the advertising industry by getting advertising talked about, enthused about.

Dairy Milk might not taste as nice as Galaxy, its NPD might not be as adventurous, its trade marketing not as impactful. But "gorilla" worked. Enough.