Will the Olympics Spur an Ad Recovery?

Among them are first-time Olympic advertisers Hallmark cards, computer maker Gateway and technology company EDS. Other advertisers include Nike, Coca-Cola, Allstate and Bank of America.

Gateway, which would not divulge how much it will spend on Olympic ads, says its ad budget in February will be twice that of January because of the Games. The computer maker will use the opportunity to advertise some new promotions, like its Gateway Gold Medal Savings Event, and product upgrades. A spokesman for the company estimates that 85 percent of Americans will see a Gateway spot an average of 10 times each during the Games.

"It's among the highest levels of advertising we've ever run ever, and that includes pre-holiday advertising," says Gateway's director of media relations, Brad Williams.

Hallmark decided that the confluence of Valentine's Day with the widely watched event gave the card purveyor a good opportunity for both sponsorships and advertising.

"I can't even think of a sporting event that is more emotionally packed than the Olympics. That makes this event particularly relevant to our brand," says Kylie Watson-Wheeler, Hallmark's director of advertising.

Technology company EDS, which made a big splash in the Super Bowl two years ago with its commercial showing cowboys herding cats, decided to pass on the game this year and instead purchased 50 30-second spots during the Olympics. The company would not comment on how much it was spending on the ads.

Signs From the Economy

Apart from the Olympics, other ad watchers say recent positive economic news could also spur advertisers to start dipping their toes into the advertising market again. The fourth-quarter GDP numbers, which showed an unexpected rise of 0.2 percent, along with the Federal Reserve's decision to leave interest rates unchanged, a signal that the economy is on the mend, could add some confidence in the economy.

"[Advertisers] are probably feeling a little less draconian in their views, but I don't think they're confident yet," says McCann-Erickson's Coen.

But if the GDP numbers, which are preliminary and could still be revised downward, do end up being negative, that could hamper an advertising comeback, which usually takes place around three to six months after a GDP recovery when many companies start making capital expenditures again, notes UBS Warburg's Westerfield.

"When advertisers start seeing more positive comments about the economy, they start spending more, and they're starting to see this," says Kivijarv. "We haven't necessarily seen it yet, but it's coming."

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