March 23, 2009

It’s Gonna Be Alright

Filed under: Staying Fresh — Joe Grant @ 3:57 pm

cool-pony4Go to a shopping mall and you’ll see people still buying hot pretzels at Auntie Anne’s and hot undies at Victoria’s. Go to dinner at a sit down restaurant like McCormick & Schmick’s, Cheesecake, or P.F. Changs and you’ll wait 45 minutes or more for a table.

Here we are almost at the end of Q1 and our world as we know it hasn’t ended. I mean, with all the talk of doom and gloom, didn’t you really worry for a while if we’d even get this far?

Agency principals I talk to are cautiously positive, too. Some are plain amazed how well things are going – a couple I know are measurably ahead of where they were same time last year. RFPs are starting to dribble in faster and new business teams are making progress with enlightened marketers willing to entertain low-key capabilities pitches. They want to be ready when the economy returns to cruising speed. 

OK, I’ll grant there’s little doubt that overall revenue will be down for the year at many smaller and mid-size agencies, but it would have been mostly flat anyway with no election spending on local TV and no Olympic tie-ins. 

And some agencies have made wrenching cuts. But probably not as Draconian as they thought they’d have to. One shop I’m well acquainted with that’s had nearly 20 consecutive profitable years freaked when their forecasts showed a God-Help-Us flat ’09; they immediately sliced off about 15% of the staff. Frankly they needed to anyway; the crunch merely gave them good reason. And now ironically some of their incumbent clients are surprising them with unexpected projects so they’re talking about rehiring.

Hell, there’s even M & A activity out there as aggressive shops try to scarf up bargains.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of pain. In retail especially, customer counts and check averages are going downstairs, sales are slipping, and some industries have suffered breathtaking contraction (autos, boats & RVs, thin-margin chains like Circuit City come to mind). But the grainy b&w bread line pictures that news magazines keep printing haven’t materialized.

I get the feeling that if we all just hold on tight and don’t make precipitous decisions things will turn out fine. Listen carefully to the newsies on cable and you’ll hear phrases like “glimmer of hope,” “beginning to get traction,” and “improving numbers.”

Like the old punch line goes, there’s a pony in there somewhere.

Your 2 Cents

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