Here at the Allen & Co. Conference in Sun Valley I sat down with WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell for a live on-camera interview, and we continued our conversation off camera. There's no question the ad market is suffering, this year down just over six percent globally, according to his numbers, and even more in the US. And based on Sorrell's month-to-month analysis there's no sign of a bottom just yet, though it looks like the market could turn around in the beginning of 2010.
The economy is obviously hitting advertising hard, and from Sorrell's perspective the US stimulus plan isn't doing enough to turn the global economic downturn around. And the cyclical challenges are exacerbating the structural issues the ad industry faces: a shift away from traditional formats like newspaper and broadcast television to less expensive ads online.
But some parts of Sorrell's business are faring much better than others. He tells me that the public relations industry is riding out this downturn better than previous ones, as his big clients like American Express worry about how they're perceived in every media format. And new media like social networks provide an opportunity for his businesses to help clients build a brand on all these new platforms.