PERSPECTIVE: All this talk of recovery might be a little premature

You can scarcely spend five minutes in the company of an advertising VIP these days without conversation turning to the end of the recession.

There are articles about it all over the place. Even WPP's resident pessimist Sir Martin Sorrell has said that he sees signs of the economy "climbing out of the bath". There's the prospect of the Athens Olympics and the European football championships in Portugal to stimulate spending. President Bush will want to be re-elected and will want a stronger economy to influence electors. Even Nabs, the industry charity, unveiled results of a survey last week in which half the respondents believed the worst of the recession is over.

So that means we've turned the corner, doesn't it?

Before shouting a joyous "yes", hands up all those of you who have tangible evidence - the sort of evidence, that is, you can put in your pocket?

Weird, I can't see any hands. Are you confident that the business you work for is turning the corner? Even if you are, what are the chances of a decent pay rise? Are any more redundancies likely? Are you expecting an end-of-year bonus? For most of us, I suspect, the answers are at best uncertain and more likely to be negative.

Into this maelstrom of confusion, Goldman Sachs' Global Ad Survey 2003 arrives on my desk. As several Sorrell offspring work at the investment bank (though, rather disappointingly, none appears on the list of credits), it seemed worth a closer look.

The survey encapsulates the views of 55 brand managers across the globe responsible for adspend of more than $4 billion a year.

A "muted" (for which read 5 per cent) recovery is predicted 2003-05. There's an obvious danger of self-interest in this talk of recovery.

To survive and thrive, investment banks such as Goldman Sachs must whip up interest in the merger, disposal and acquisition activity prevalent in good economic times.

The rise of the procurement specialist is reflected there, of course. So too is the consolidation of services in a single agency group, a la Boots. But the reason for consolidation is still driven by costs, especially in media services, rather than expectations of an improvement in service levels.

On budget levels, clients have been made cautious by the experiences of 2003, which has seen multiple budget cuts as the weakness in the economy has become apparent.

On the motivations for advertising, the need to retain share of mind comes top (46 per cent) with product launches second (34 per cent).

Then there is more surprising stuff, given the current orthodoxy within giant advertisers such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble. The brand managers who were surveyed saw little benefit in consolidating marketing services functions. The message? Curtailing the autonomy of local brand managers too far is no trade-off for better co-ordination and cost savings.

I cannot help ending with a plug: congratulations to Carol Fisher on her new job as partner at the Ingram Partnership. This is not just because my two bets on her resignation from COI Communications have proved correct. The first was that no mainstream ad agency would have the balls to hire her. The second, that her next job would be worth a front-page story too.

There are few people who are as absolutely and obsessively committed to the task in hand as Fisher. Chris Ingram has struck lucky.


Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content