Absent 2002's Olympic and political whirlwind, national spot buying has slackened. And comparisons with 2002 will only get worse as the year progresses.
"Spot is certainly not as tight as last year," says Jean Pool, EVP/director of North America operations, Universal McCann. "Automotive is spending an enormous amount, and, last year, zero-percent financing put dollars into dealer groups' advertising. But we did a billion dollars in spot politically, and even automotive can't replace that."
With Detroit recently announcing a 2% drop in auto sales for January, Pool adds her own concerns: "Watch for an end to zero financing."
"Automotive, telecommunications and Microsoft are pushing a lot of money into the market," says Bonita LeFlore, EVP/director of local broadcast, Zenith Media Services. "But, while the top 10 markets remain extremely tight, things are loosening up a little below that."
Tim McAuliff, CEO/Petry Media Corp. insists that "broadcast spot is doing better than we thought. January, with increases in the low double digits, was extremely good." He notes, however, that February (lacking the Olympics) will be "off" and March only "OK." Michael Spiesman, president, Continental TV Sales/Katz, also sees business as "equal or slightly better than expectations." But other rep execs aren't even that upbeat.
Kathy Crawford, EVP/director of local broadcast, Initiative Media, (Bayer/Coors/Home Depot), citing internal reports, describes only one top-10 market and only three out of the top 20 as "more fluid," suggesting a trend toward "tightening."