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UBS Media Conference: Future of Advertising

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Photo by: William Hook
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Today I'm reporting from the UBS Media and Communications conference where some of the biggest names in the industry are weighing in on M&A activity and the future of advertising.

Brian Roberts made the opening keynote address, talking about the future of content and the synergies that can emerge from Comcast's union with NBC Universal. Roberts even dismissed the question raised in this morning's New York Times about whether the broadcast TV model is "in doubt."

Folks here are telling me that now that the Comcast-NBC Universal deal is done, we're sure to see much more M&A action. There's a sense that if companies are going to make any deals before the market (and valuations) bounce back, now is the time.

But how much media companies are worth, depends a lot on whether ad markets rebound.

I sat down with the CEO of one of the ad giants, Interpublic Group, Michael Roth, to hear his thoughts on the markets. The good news is that he says that the worst is behind us -- he admits that they can't wait for this year to end -- but they're optimistic going into 2010.

General Motors is one of Interpublic Group's largest clients, and its bankruptcy and pullback in ad spending has been a real drag on the ad giant’s results. But now, as the company spends again to reassure consumers and grow the business, that'll be a good thing for IPG.

I asked Roth the same question posed to Roberts: are the broadcast TV networks at risk? He also said no, it's still a valuable medium for reaching mass audiences. But there's no question that ad dollars are shifting. Roth has had to do layoffs and consolidation to compensate for the decline in ad spending, but he says they are still hiring in the fast-growing areas of digital and mobile ads.

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