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Advertising Executives' Perspective: Trick or Treat

Earlier this month the Association of National Advertisers held its annual "Masters of Marketing" conference. Its theme was ironically "Growth"—ironic considering that advertising is expected to decline in 2009 pretty much across the board.

The ANA sent out the results of a poll it gave to marketers and media and creative agencies, and the results weren't positive, but they weren't quite as grim as I'd have expected.

A third of those polled say they'll reduce their spending to account for the recent financial downturn, another third say they'll keep their spending constant but will reallocate their mix, and 27 percent replied "Surprisingly, we will spend more."

I wonder if the responses would be different now, as opposed to two weeks ago. When it comes to opportunity for growth, "social media integration" (i.e. ads and a presence on social networks) was by far the leader—28 percent saying social media would provide the best opportunity. "Grassroots, viral public relations" also got a strong showing of support, 19 percent showing that would provide growth opportunity. And I've been reporting that a lot of people will want to retreat to the familiar, which is traditional 30-second TV spots, and 17 percent of those polled will be turning more to those for growth.

Bottom line: brands will continue to spend money on marketing, but they will be watching those ad dollars a lot more carefully, and if strategies don't yield concrete results, I wouldn't be surprised if companies shift gears mid-stream. I'd also guess that the answers to this poll would get increasingly negative, the more time that passes, and the more we get third quarter reports from media companies, even if the market has been moving up.

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.