Are We Hot or Not?

In spite of my sincerest hopes, it looks as though war with Iraq is now imminent. What this is going to mean in terms of a cost of lives and impact on the economy is difficult to discern, one thing is becoming evident.

It looks like the ad industry, specifically the online advertising industry, is picking up.

The evidence I see of this being the case isn’t so much reported ad spending increases, which talk of the coming upfront season seems to have suggested. In fact, recently much of the talk within the industry has surrounded an anticipated dip in the ad market due to the war with Iraq. As David Verklin, CEO of Carat North America put it in an article that ran on yesterday, "I'm not sure we'd want to be in the middle of a newsweekly with a picture of a dead American soldier on the cover."

What leads me to believe that we are seeing a potential upswing within the online advertising industry is the increasing number of job postings I’m seeing on discussion boards and recruiter calls and emails I’ve started to receive in the last month.



It looks like the business is starting to bring back some of those refugees that had been cast adrift when times were at the toughest. In one day I’ve seen 6 different postings for jobs at agencies. They are positions for media directors, AMDs, traffic coordinators, media supervisors, a regular stream of sales jobs, and even design freelancers.

This is encouraging. After such a long slump, companies have had ample time to streamline their practices, cutting operating costs and increasing efficiencies through the establishment of better, more standardized processes; and getting more work out of fewer people. Shops and media companies have become much more guarded about how they allocate their resources and they are a lot more cautious about incurring new labor costs.

Unless these agencies and media companies aren’t very bright, it is my guess that their people have run the numbers and have figured out that they not only need more hands on deck, but that they can afford to bring them on.

It may be true that some of this is being driven by speculative optimism, and perhaps some organizations have opted to go with prognostications that are more in the vein of a Jean Dixon than they are of Cassandra. But the sheer number of job opportunities that are beginning to surface suggests that different crystal balls are revealing similar visions.

An even more encouraging thought is that these hires will be brought in to work on actually existing business! Wouldn’t it be a treat if agencies and media companies were bringing on new personnel based on existing cash flow and/or possible reserves?

Or it could be that some of the resident seers at these hiring companies are gambling on a vision that war, depending on how it goes, can be a boon for the economy. If indeed it goes “well” (how do define that I am wary to try), it is possible that demand pent up by anxiety of uncertainty and fear will be released in a fit of consumption. This would in turn mean an upswing in the economic activity and the possibility of more regular marketing spend. Nietzsche once wrote that one seldom commits one rash act: first one does too much; then one does too little. We may see that principle in effect here, and in reverse.

The challenge, of course, will be how to you pick up the good planners, buyers, traffickers, sellers, and other such marketing folks before the competition does. When we were a bloated industry, all someone had to do was fog a mirror to get a job. As a much leaner business, only the really good ones survive (and the few requisite unmentionables). Being a smart company is not only knowing when to hire, but who to hire.

Whatever the reasons for this largely anecdotal industry pick-up, it is good to see that there is a little life in the market for advertising persons, even if some might argue that wanting more advertising personnel is like wishing for more lawyers.

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