Both the star haruspices at New York's annual UBS Media Week Conference on Monday were in agreement: the adspend runes for 2004 look good.
Which is precisely what WPP Group's Sir Martin Sorrell predicted in December 2001 while the rest of the ad world crossed its fingers and talked-up the return of the good times in 2002-03.
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan: in the red corner Robert Coen, director of forecasting for Universal McCann; in the blue John Perriss, ceo of ZenithOptimedia. But neither man came out fighting -- instead they linked arms and sang pretty well from the same hymnsheet.
Opined Coen of the year ahead: "It looks like a very sustainable economic expansion is finally in place ... so the overall expectations, the general trends we see in media are pretty good for 2004."
Harmonized Perriss: "All told, the numbers show relative optimism for 2004. The [US presidential] elections and the Olympics will each add approximately $1 billion to the world's total ad spending growth in 2004, and the European soccer championships will add another $500 million."
Coen envisages US advertising expenditure in 2004 will rise to $266.4 billion (€217.37bn; £153.05bn) -- 6.9% up year-on-year. Spending in the top four TV networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) -- is set to grow 12%, thanks to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the usual ad blitz in the run-up to the presidential election. Cable TV will continue to expand its slice of the spending cake, up 12%; while magazines will grow 5%.
Perriss, however, sounded a note of caution. With nearly 17% of next year's growth linked with quadrennial events, the absence of those events could create a "void" in 2005 depressing adspend totals for that year.
Corporate profitability will be the real factor in spending next year, he continued. As credit debt pressures slow consumer spending, corporations will progressively redress the imbalance.
Perriss noted spending by the top ten advertisers has increased, mainly by double-digit percentages, even though product categories remain mixed. "I don't think it's categories we should be following, it's companies," he said.
Quantifying his 2004 prognostications, Perriss forecast a rise in global adspend of 4.7% (3.6% inflation-adjusted).
North America will achieve 3.9% growth after inflation, while Europe will finally show positive numbers after inflation, up 2.2%. The Asia Pacific region will grow 4.6% after inflation, despite the stagnant Japanese economy which will remain on its present plateau.
Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff