Politics leads '08 ad campaigns

Olympics to also be key in estimated spending uptick

Despite a sluggish economy that will dampen underlying momentum, 2008 U.S. advertising spending will be boosted above 2007 levels by record political spending, the Beijing Olympics and continued gains in the online category, according to a new forecast.

Total U.S. advertising spending will rise 4.2% in 2008, with a 4.7% second-half gain trumping a 3.6% growth estimate in the first half, TNS Media Intelligence, a provider of strategic advertising and marketing information, projected Monday.

For the first nine months of 2007, TNS reported a 0.2% increase in ad spending to $108.2 billion. The firm last month cited a softening U.S. economy and a continued shift toward untracked digital ad alternatives as key factors.

The results were tracking well behind the original TNS forecast for 2007 growth of 1.7% thanks to a 1.2% first-half gain, followed by a 2.3% second-half improvement.

The economic concerns seen late in 2007 also will affect the ad market in the new year.

"2008 is shaping up as a year of contrasts," TNS senior vp research Jon Swallen said Monday. "A weakened economy will have a dampening effect on the broader, core advertising market."

But special events, such as the Olympics and elections, will boost figures. Internet ad spending also will increase 14.4% in 2008 over a strong 2007 performance, according to the research firm. For the first three quarters of 2007, Web ad revenue was up 17.2%.

Most other types of media also will see gains, with the exception of newspapers and business-to-business magazines, it forecasts.

As the second-biggest growth category, spot TV ad spending will expand 9.9% in the new year, with Spanish-language media expected to see a 7.8% improvement, TNS said.

Cable will see a 5% advance, with network TV estimated to gain 2.7%.

Radio advertising, which has long languished, will manage a 0.7% spending gain in 2008, TNS predicted.

The firm's 4.2% ad gain forecast for the current year is ahead of other prominent estimates.

Bob Coen, director of forecasting at media agency Universal McCann, recently projected a 3.7% gain in U.S. ad spending in 2008 to $294.4 billion (HR 12/4). He also cited the Olympics and the U.S. presidential election as key drivers of growth compared with 2007, which he now sees ending up 0.7%.

ZenithOptimedia CEO Steve King has said he expects a 4.1% U.S. increase for 2008, close to the TNS estimate. That comes on the heels of his 2.5% growth forecast for 2007.

Banc of America Securities analyst Jonathan Jacoby on Monday also reported continued signs of underlying ad market weakness.

"Local advertising trends were weak in November, and our checks indicate trends will continue into December and the first quarter," he said in a report. "While national advertising trends are more difficult to gauge, we are beginning to hear of some advertiser softness at the national level."