Although May’s TV upfronts were upbeat with sales and rates boding well for the Q4 scatter-buying season [WAMN: 07-Jun-02], few ad prophets would have predicted the extent of this fall’s bull market, with the big four networks selling commercial time at a 25%-40% premium over the prices paid in the spring.

Leading the buying bonanza are car manufacturers, phone companies and movie studios, creating a broad and diverse advertising base, according to those in the bullring, with primetime slots for the fourth quarter already sold out.

No less a pragmatist than Rupert Murdoch, addressing an investor conference in New York on Tuesday, described the current adsales scene as a “dramatic turnround” with an “accelerating momentum that shows no signs of abating”.

And despite the roller-coaster stock markets, scaled-back profit forecasts, rising unemployment and consumers’ tightened purse-strings, Murdoch still insists: “Business is great!” The chairman of NewsCorp is not renowned for getting it wrong.

So perhaps, just perhaps, the extent of the recession is not as bad as it said to be by the Wall Street Cassandra faction - which unlike the rest of us has everything to gain from a continuing bear market.

Economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics, thinks exactly that. “The economy is really doing better than it's given credit for,” he insists, arguing that the US is in the second year of a recovery. “Advertising is a very economically sensitive activity.”

Andy Donchin, director of national broadcast for Carat USA, agrees. Rather than canceling, his clients are asking to add to their upfront commitments. While the grin on the face of ABC’s president of sales and marketing Mike Shaw says it all. “I don't think two months ago anybody could have told you the scatter market would be this strong,” he observed.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff