Taking the Pulse of Marketing

A survey of leading thinkers, gathered to judge the advertising world's Effie Awards, offers a valuable snapshot of an industry in flux

Is the 60-second spot dead? Whither Second Life? To find out what's going on in the world of marketing and advertising, BusinessWeek joined the Effie Awards—the advertising prize awarded by the New York American Marketing Association to the year's most effective campaigns—to survey the judges when they gathered in early March to decide on the winners. (The envelopes will be opened later this month.)

While 121 judges may make for a small survey pool, the group is extremely influential. Respondents included top marketing executives from Kraft Foods (KFT), Home Depot (HD), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Pepsi (PBG), and agency executives from BBDO, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather, Saatchi & Saatchi, and more. So while the survey's results are unscientific, they offer a valuable snapshot of what the leaders in the business are thinking.

Hot Topics, New Markets

In some cases, the survey puts specific numbers on a general trend, such as TV advertising's state of flux. More than 42.4% of the largest advertisers (clients and agency-side executives on accounts larger than $750 million) who took part in the survey said TV spending would take the biggest hit in their budgets this year. Then again, despite the talk of commercial-skipping DVRs and new opportunities online, a full 18% of respondents said TV would see the biggest percentage increase in their entire media budget. Backing that up, TNS Media intelligence estimates TV ad spending was up roughly 5.3% overall in 2006.

Another hot topic was this trend on the horizon: the burgeoning Hispanic market. In the next 10 years, almost all of the population growth in the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic will come from second-generation Hispanics according to the Pew Hispanic Center. They are native-born but typically bilingual.

Our pool disagreed on how advertisers would best reach them. Thirty-seven respondents said they believed multicultural agencies, which currently market to first-generation immigrants and Spanish speakers, will play a larger role. Fifty-eight thought this fast-growing group would be reached by general market agencies, becoming just one more market segment of the general population. Twenty-one people marked "other."

What's the Buzz?

Only one question on the survey really divided those on the agency side from in-house marketers. When asked "True or False: Generating press and buzz is the most important part of building a brand," 18 of the client-respondents said true and 16 said false. On the ad agency side, a full 63.9% of respondents said false. "If buzz translates to trial and sales, then that's great. But you know you don't want to be just a flash in the pan," says Linda Cornelius, managing director at ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, who chairs the Effies this year (and who was also a respondent). "Perhaps this reflects that clients have their eyes on short-term results."

The world of marketing and advertising is rife with buzzwords and catch phrases, and to round out the survey, we asked respondents which words and phrases they were most sick of hearing. At the top of the list? "Buzz marketing," "viral," and "user-generated content"—the videos made by fans either for brand-sponsored competitions or as personal YouTube productions.

And what did they predict they'll be most sick of hearing about next year? "User-generated content" rose to the top of the list, followed closely by the multiuser video game Second Life. Though they may be sick of user-generated content, Cornelius said she, for one, is skeptical the trend will go away. "I think agencies fear losing control, but agencies who are sick of it now will be sick of it next year. It's here to stay."

Click here to see the results of BusinessWeek's brand-analysis survey of Effie Awards judges.

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