As 2003 creeps upon us and 2002 becomes nothing more than a chapter in a history book, the overwhelming feeling seems to be one of optimism for the future. The economy appears to be slightly
recovering and most advertising budgets seem to be predicting solid growth. There are definite signs that the industry is poised for a rebound. As an immediately tangible prediction, the
overall mood of the buyers and sellers seems to be much more upbeat than over the past couple of years. Many of the agencies that are still in business are either hiring or projecting hires in coming
months. On the flipside, the sellers are seeing larger RFPs than they did at this time last year as many clients are trying to take a longer term, holistic approach to their planning cycles and lay
out dollars for the entire year rather than reacting to the market. TV advertising is starting to fear the effects of services such as TiVo, with many clients forecasting that if penetration of
these products increases too rapidly they will respond with a reduction in their TV ad budgets. This could potentially result in a reallocation of those dollars to the online space. After all, those
dollars have to go somewhere, right? Online penetration continues to grow, as does the penetration of broadband in homes. As the experience improves, time spent online seems to increase. People
are using the web more often, for more purposes and integrating it into their daily lives. Advertisers understand this and are reacting in the only logical way, pursuing ideas on how to reach their
audience online to provide an additional element in the attempt to surround their audience with a cohesive message and burst through the clutter. Publishers are having healthy discussions on
standardization of ad models and the big players are all starting to work together to help drive this effort. I’ve said before that the publishers are in the best position to help simplify the
industry and now it seems they believe it. Hopefully they continue this momentum and get their goals established quickly. The upbeat mood of the industry participants seems to be coupled with a
very healthy respect for what happened last time around. The people I’ve spoken to are aware of the mistakes that were made in our last period of growth and are much more willing to grow slowly and
manage the clients and dollars more tightly to ensure these same mistakes are not made again.
This last item is the one that I feel needs to be emphasized. The last time our industry experienced a
period of growth it was treated like the Gold Rush. We mined the web for any nugget of potential profit, and in doing so we depleted the reserves of good ideas and management that were required for
this growth to have been sustainable at any level. Too many people threw money and people at half-baked ideas trying to find the magic bullet that would result in revenues and profits to take them
further. In doing so we ignored the fundamentals such as standardization, managed growth and managed expectations, strong customer service, and my old pet peeve of limited complexity.
many people left in this industry, and they are intelligent, well organized and passionate about making it work. As the dollars begin to re-enter our industry, and growth becomes imminent, we need to
remain focused on the ideals and executional elements that allowed many of these companies to weather the “perfect storm” that we experienced over the last 2-3 years.
Here is a toast to 2003 being
the year that we fulfill our own expectations for our industry.