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Editor's Note: Media Malaise Presents Big Challenges

1 Nov, 2013 By: Thomas Haire Response

Was it really just a year ago in this very space that I wrote this?


Was it really just a year ago in this very space that I wrote this?

“Kantar Media’s 2Q 2012 results show the best second quarter for short-form DRTV media since we began analyzing their research in the middle of the past decade. Those results — along with positive 1Q short-form results and the great increases shown in Response’s own long-form DRTV research for the first half of the year — have raised hopes that the marketplace is finally leaving its lengthy slumber that began in 2009.”

Indeed, it was. Nor was it a mirage, as the final two quarters of 2012 closed out the best year for DRTV media billings in years. What could go wrong entering 2013? Well, apparently plenty.

If you turn to page 18, you’ll see Kantar’s 2Q 2013 short-form DRTV results — if you can bear to look. The quarter’s results were off by nearly $300 million from the same time period last year, and while experts on both the buying side and the network/station side had warned that second quarter was a struggle, it’s hard to imagine such a drop.

As a matter of fact, while the long-form DRTV media market is off 6.2 percent so far in 2013 (according to Response’s own research — see the July and October issues for full results), the short-form space is suffering what can only be called a free-fall. Compared to the first six months of 2012, this year’s first half shows a loss of more than $481 million in spending — a 21.4-percent decline.

Where does a half-billion dollars go in just one year? Are pharma and nutraceutical marketers (the vertical suffering the most so far in 2013) running scared in an era of expanded regulatory scrutiny? Strong upfront and scatter markets among general advertisers explain only so much. The same can be said for increasing digital expenditures as the mobile and tablet market matures (see page 34).

One trend to note is that the biggest campaigns are accounting for a higher percentage of spending so far in 2013. So we know successful campaigns are still spending freely, but are rising media prices keeping smaller marketers and new marketers away from testing DRTV?

That’s one explanation being kicked around by industry insiders. Another is that DR marketers eased off the throttle early in 2013 compared to last year due to the lack of a major political campaign. Many say that DR marketers made a bigger push in the first half of 2012, knowing that the final six months of the year would be heavily impacted by the presidential race (and the Summer Olympics coverage that took NBCUniversal’s networks out of commission for weeks).

Yes, there are many explanations possible for a slower market — but none seem to add up to the slowest market in seven years. One has to hope that the projections we’ve heard from insiders for a more stable third quarter and a robust fourth quarter come to pass. Otherwise, we are looking at a complete reversal of 2012’s good vibes and major questions heading into 2014.

Thomas Haire, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter: @THRants


About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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