Speaking at the OMMA Global conference in New York, Ramsey tried to keep the sense of doom from spreading to online advertising by encouraging those assembled to remain steadfast in pushing ahead with digital marketing plans.
"You need to stay determined in this market," he said. "You can be fearful and freeze budgets, and not do anything, or come out fighting and be determined to win." To emphasize his point, Ramsey showed a slide of Robert DeNiro in boxing pose as Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull."
The image was part of a fast-moving keynote presentation by the Web uber-analyst that tried to keep things upbeat amid the increasingly gloomy economic outlook. Ramsey backed up his determined optimism with a raft of eMarketer data points showing that online advertising would continue to enjoy double-digit growth even as media spending overall was stagnant.
Already this year, the market research firm has trimmed its forecast for online spending twice from $27.5 billion to $24.9 billion. It has also lowered its estimate for social media to $1.4 billion and revised downward its estimate for online video from more than $1 billion to $505 million (partly as a result of applying a different methodology to the category). And that was before the financial cataclysms of the last week, including the government bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and American International Group and the collapse of Lehman Bros. and sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America.
Separately, new data from Nielsen Online released Thursday showed that a 27% drop in financial services display-ad spending online has led to 6% decline overall in display advertising for the first half of 2008 (see related story). Ad dollars coming from the financial sector are only likely to dwindle further during the second half of the year. The same Nielsen report also showed that automotive and consumer goods spending were up, respectively, 45% and 32% over the last year.
Ramsey acknowledged that the financial picture will probably get worse before it gets better, but pointed to a comment from WPP Group Chairman Martin Sorrell saying no one is going to get shot or fired "'if they invest a little more in digital.'" He also highlighted research showing that only 24% of business executives consider themselves digitally savvy and most are dissatisfied with how their companies are using Web 2.0 tools. "The answer is experimentation," said Ramsey, who also warned the audience against F.O.G. (fear of Google) and fear of accountability. Specifically, the concern is that "the data might show that (campaign) results aren't what they should be. We need accountability," said Ramsey. And if eMarketer's forecasts turn out to be wildly off, people will have the chance to offer feedback by rating the firm's reports starting next week.