This week’s stream of global adspend forecasts in varying hues of optimism has met with a guarded response from the major agency holding companies – or so said a trio of speakers at this week’s UBS Warburg mediafest in New York.

Zenith Optimedia set the crystal ball in motion Monday with a relatively cautious estimate of 2.9% global growth in 2003. London-headquartered Aegis Group was even more circumspect, predicting that spending will rise only 2.3% next year.

Then Universal McCann media doyen Robert J Coen went for broke [just a figure of speech, folks] with a technicolor forecast of 4.9%, lifting spend to $470 billion (€466.22bn; £298.03bn) which betters even the dotcom-fuelled goldrush of 2000.

But three of the globe’s big four agency colossi were skeptical about the veracity of these forecasts. In order of global ranking, give a big hand to the guys at the sharp end of the business …

WPP Group cfo Paul Richardson said his budgets are based on growth rates ranging from flat to 3%, exclusive of currency fluctuations and acquisitions. The group sees healthcare, direct marketing and some interactive activities as the main engines of growth – but these are subsidiary to “cost-driven recovery” in which bottom-line expansion will come from cost controls rather than top-line growth.

His opposite number at Interpublic Group Sean Orr said weakness in mid-term visibility makes growth rates “a bit of a roll of the dice”, while chairman ceo John Dooner believes that help from an improving [US] economy will make it easier to align costs and revenue.

The French, as ever, had the last word. With a welcome touch of Gallic cynicism, Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Lèvy observed: “Advertisers are making decisions day by day ... so it's difficult – even with a nice French crystal ball.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff