Do you want the good news or bad news first? Since this is no time for denial, let’s tackle the challenges first. Where the projected increases and decreases in direct response media spend reported in Target Marketing’s Media Usage Forecast 2008 were rain clouds threatening an economic storm, 2009’s reversal of fortune for these figures could be foreshadowing the extent of the destruction. In 2007, 42 percent of respondents boasted a media budget increase; that number has dropped to 20 percent for 2009. Conversely, the percentage of respondents reporting a decreased budget nearly tripled between 2007 and 2009, coming in at 35 percent for the year ahead.
Now for the good news. Since 2006, the segment indicating direct response budgets were holding steady also has remained fairly level, hovering between 38 percent and 41 percent. Of course, a good chunk of these marketers might have been struggling with less than ideal financial resources for several years now, but let’s try to think positively.
Finally for the somewhat neutral news, those firms reporting they were not sure if their budgets would track up or down for the coming year started at 8 percent in 2007 but settled at 5 percent for the past two years. Either this segment is staying in denial about the status of its media spend or is less concerned about an annual projected spend compared to maximizing performance and ROI on an ongoing basis. Based on anecdotal evidence, I’m leaning toward the latter scenario. And after seeing the gains online media made this past year in companies’ marketing plans, it’s clear marketers are responding to avenues that allow for quick results and adjustment, as well as cost control.
Where e-mail has been marketers’ favorite ROI-producing medium for retention for the past three years, gaining a couple percentage points with each annual survey, direct mail suffered a strong blow on the acquisition front for 2009, being passed by e-mail for the first time as the favored ROI driver (see Chart 3 below). Direct mail dropped about 30 percent against 2008’s figure, settling at 23 percent of the vote this year compared to e-mail’s 28 percent score. Its loss was other media’s gain, as most players in the field enjoyed a small boost in preference. In particular, outbound telemarketing claimed the No. 3 position, pushing search engine marketing (SEM) out of the way.