David Peeler – who arguably knows as much as anyone aboard this planet about media trends – told this week’s Adwatch: Outlook 2002 conference in New York that he has raised his earlier prediction of a rise this year in US adspend from 1.5% to 2.5%.

Which, if you enjoy playing with numbers, is a percentage hike of no less than sixty-six point six recurring.

Peeler, who is president/ceo at Taylor Nelson Sofres’ CMR in New York, is in the business of tracking US media spend; and his company is widely regarded as unchallenged leader in the sector. Unlike many other industry and investment seers, his predictions are founded on a hands-on knowledge of the US media market; they are also free of the usual hidden agendas.

Peeler is projecting a nationwide H2 gain of 6.2% - which would more than compensate for the first half fall of 0.4%. His optimism is based on a number of factors, he said. Higher spending in the entertainment and political sectors will spearhead the way to growth, as will additional money flowing into Hispanic media. He also pointed to the stronger-than-expected sales of commercial time by the broadcast television networks ahead of the 2002-2003 season [WAMN: 03-Jun-02].

“We took a look at upfront trends over the last five years, and a positive upfront has a positive impact, filtering down into other advertising expenditures,” said Peeler. But he cautioned against euphoria: “Let's keep this in perspective. Two-point-five percent up is still down 6.7 percent from 2000 [the best ever year for US adspend] but it's better than last year,” when ad spending tracked by CMR fell 9.8 percent from 2000.

He also warned: “If consumer spending were to start to fall off, advertising spending would fall off right behind it.” Also, “some devastating event in the Mideast or along the lines of September 11 could potentially derail what we're seeing now”.

• Elsewhere at the conference, caution of a different kind was urged by Steven J Heyer, president/coo at Coca-Cola Ventures. Advertising agencies, he said, used to be a ceo’s most important ally, but their importance has waned over the last three decades as they ceded influence to management consulting firms and other experts.

Agencies these days seem more focused on producing good creative than planning media and strategy and in delivering integrated campaigns, opined Heyer. Good, strategic product placement or community outreach programs could be more effective than 30-second TV commercials.

Greater consumer choice has made advertising and marketing more important than ever. “In my world, every function is subservient ... to marketing,” Heyer stressed. Outdoor and radio are underused mediums, he believes, positing that the former may be “the only mass medium with a real long-term future.”

The internet, however, has yet to come into its own. Currently it has little value so far as brand-building is concerned, he said, although it is an effective tool for data collection, direct marketing and communicating with consumers.

“Right now, the internet is a way to build a dialogue, gather data and make offers to consumers … [but] as broadband expands, and interactivity and TV are better developed, there may be more opportunities.”

Data sourced from: New York Times and AdWeek.com; additional content by WARC staff