ANA Survey Finds US Marketing Execs Hunkering Down in the ‘New Normal’

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The “new normal” for American marketing executives appears to be a resolutely sober state in which they’re seeking cost cuts whether the economy is good or bad.

That’s why 82 percent of marketers surveyed by the Association of National Advertisers are still pushing for cost savings and still streamlining marketing budgets despite more signs of U.S. economic recovery including a buoyant stock market and an apparent uptick in first-quarter growth. Two thirds of the 82 percent planned to reduce their marketing budgets by up to 10 percent this year, about the same level who had such plans in 2012.

“Even in better times,” ANA group executive vice president Bill Duggan told brandchannel, “a large, large percentage of marketers will still check that box to say that they’re looking for cost reductions in their marketing efforts.”[more]

ANA’s seventh recession-related survey covered marketing execs from 120 member companies, including Allstate, Eli Lilly, Whirlpool and 3M. Duggan said that the biggest factor influencing the respondents “is how their own respective businesses are performing. They keep an eye on broader economic factors, but it all comes down to how their business is doing.”

At least their collective opinion, showing that about 55 percent plan to reduce their marketing budgets by up to 10 percent this year, is somewhat more favorable than during the low point of the recession in 2009, when nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 62 percent, planned to reduce budgets by 11 percent or more.

“The ‘new normal’ for marketers is an environment that challenges brands to grow earnings through improved marketing effectiveness and increased spending efficiencies to cut costs,” Bob Liodice, ANA’s president and CEO, stated. “Companies expect technology, expanding media platforms and better decision-making to better enable marketers to pursue earnings-growth objectives.”

Specifically, for instance, Duggan said that it’s “a fair assumption” to believe that part of marketers’ expectations of continued cost-cutting lies in their hopes for spending more of their marketing budgets on digital media and generating greater ROI on those outlays than in traditional media.

Duggan emphasized that “accountability in spending” was the No. 1 concern of the executives surveyed. As that applies to plans to cut marketing spending, the ANA survey showed that executives plan to emphasize reductions in travel (58 percent), internal agency expenses (55 percent), ad campaign media budgets (46 percent) and new projects (44 percent.)

One silver lining in the survey for ad agencies, as Ad Age notes: Only 15 percent of brand execs planned to decrease agency compensation to meet their cost-savings goals, a significant decrease from the 56 percent who favored that option in 2009.

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