Is Digital Marketing Recession Proof?

MS&L/PRWeek Survey Reveals 75% of Marketers Expect Spending on New Media and Online Initiatives to Increase in the Next Year

NEW YORK--()--It is clear that digital marketing is becoming more and more prevalent and popular in the marketing industry, but is it also possible that the discipline is recession proof? A recent survey conducted on behalf of PRWeek and Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L) by Millward Brown indicates that just may be the case: Despite weakened economic conditions, over 75% of senior marketers say they expect spending for new media and online initiatives to increase in the next year. The survey, which polled 252 U.S. chief marketing officers, VPs of marketing and marketing directors and managers, focused on digital and consumer generated media, marketing ethics and the role of public relations in the marketing mix.

When asked, by discipline, if they expected spending to increase, decrease, or remain the same in the coming year, 75% of marketers say they expect spending for digital programs to increase, 21% say budgets will remain the same, and only 4% expect digital spending to decrease. But marketers appear less bullish about other major marketing disciplines: far fewer (33%) expect advertising budgets to increase, while 48% say they will remain the same, and 20% expect a decrease. Public relations spending may be slightly more stable, with 37% anticipating spending more, a majority (52%) expecting to spend the same, and just 11% expecting a decrease.

Marketers also overwhelmingly agree that they would be most likely to cut from many other disciplines before turning to digital if forced to scale back budgets as a result of poor economic conditions. Advertising is cited as the most likely to be cut (35%), followed by point-of-sale marketing (29%), public relations (16%) and direct marketing (16%). Digital, on the other hand, is at the bottom of the list, with only 4% of respondents indicating they would be most likely to cut from this area.

These results show us that not only is digital marketing a global capability that marketers must truly embrace for its effectiveness and ROI, it is also a discipline that fares very well in tougher economic conditions, said Mark Hass, chief executive officer of MS&L Worldwide. Digital is an advisable investment because of the strong, measurable results it can produce and targeted audiences it can reach, and its also one of the more economical options. On the other hand, advertising is more expensive and PR more vulnerable because marketers feel it isnt measurable.

According to the sixth annual PRWeek/Manning Selvage & Lee Marketing Management Survey, consumer generated media (CGM) continues to make inroads among marketers. When asked which marketing discipline they anticipate being their top priority over the next 6-12 months, nearly three in ten (28%) mention CGM despite its relative newness as an application. And marketers view CGM as a tool for supporting brand and reputation: More than six in 10 say CGM is important for creating brand awareness (68%), building brands (64%), and being perceived as an innovator (60%). A sizeable proportion of marketers even tie CGM directly to ROI, with 43% saying it is important to sales.

Just last year, most marketers were unwilling to invest in consumer generated media. Only 12% of respondents from the 2007 Marketing Management Survey said that CGM was very important to their marketing platforms, and just 22 percent said they were very willing to let consumers play a significant role in shaping their marketing programs. This year, if marketers stated they are unwilling to invest in this area it is mostly because the efforts are arduous to measure. Of those who would cut digital from a marketing budget, 46% of those respondents said there is a lack of ROI with digital/WOM and CGM, they are not as effective as other disciplines or they are difficult to measure.

The PR industry has a remarkable opportunity to prove the value of what we do in the digital space, notes Hass. Whether it is producing social networks, creating traditional web sites, or managing consumer message boards for a new product, we must take ownership of this area and do better in measuring the immense impact these techniques can have on our clients businesses.

The 2008 PRWeek/MS&L Marketing Management survey was conducted in partnership with PRWeek by Millward Brown. Survey results were collected between May 1 and May 19, 2008. Results are not weighted.

About PRWeek Magazine

Launched in November 1998, PRWeek is the first weekly magazine to offer nationwide coverage of the public relations business. Over the years, PRWeek has established itself as a vital part of the PR and communications industries in the US, providing timely news, profiles, features, techniques, reviews of campaigns, and groundbreaking research in print, as well as on its companion Web site, This research includes annual salary, CEO, and cause surveys, as well as key industry sector rankings and forums. The magazine also launched the PRWeek Awards to showcase and recognize the best practices in the PR industry. Its aim is to provide essential daily reading for every US public relations professional and to champion the cause of public relations as an essential management discipline in the business community at large. Visit for more information.

About Manning Selvage & Lee

MS&L ( is one of the world's leading global communications firms. Headquartered in New York, MS&L has 54 offices throughout North America, Latin America, EMEA and Asia-Pacific, as well as an extensive global affiliate network. The agency meets the needs of global and local clients by providing best-in-class services in consumer marketing PR, healthcare PR, corporate communications and technology communications, as well as industry-leading work in digital communications. In 2008, MS&L was named CROs #1 PR firm in Corporate Responsibility, won PRWeeks Promotional Event of the Year award and the Holmes Reports PR Product of the Year award for Innovation in Influencer Marketing.

MS&L is a member of the Publicis Groupe (Euronext Paris: FR0000130577), the worlds fourth largest communications group, and a global leader in digital and online advertising, media consulting, and healthcare communications. With some 44,000 professionals in 104 countries, the Groupe's activities cover advertising through three global advertising networks: Leo Burnett, Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi, as well as through its two multi-hub networks Fallon Worldwide and 49%-owned Bartle Bogle Hegarty; media agencies with two worldwide networks ZenithOptimedia and Starcom MediaVest Group; and marketing services, including digital and interactive communications through Digitas, relationship and direct marketing, public and media relations, corporate and financial communications, multicultural communications, and event communications. The Groupe is also the world leader in healthcare communications. Web site:


Manning Selvage & Lee
Sara Donaldson, 212-468-3893


Manning Selvage & Lee
Sara Donaldson, 212-468-3893