Profits are down. Business is horrible. The economy is in the worst shape since the Great Depression. Companies can’t borrow any money. Growth? There is none. Flat is the new goal. Still, spending money on your brand may be the best move you can make.

Advertising agencies and media companies alike always say – somewhat predictably and authoritatively – “Advertise when times are tough because you can create more of an impact.” The easiest thing for most companies to cut is the marketing budget, but this should be one of the last. Today, this notion is truer than ever.

Let’s examine why now really is the best time to advertise in a long time.

 The Ailing Media Industry
This past year has absolutely devastated media vendors. Almost every form of “traditional” media has experienced an almost unprecedented downturn in sales revenues. Many newer forms of media are also struggling as the business climate has changed so dramatically.

We’ve all seen the numbers cited over the past few months as it relates to the downturn in revenues. I won’t rehash the figures…let’s just say that media companies are not realizing the profits or revenues they have in the past and are struggling mightily. The days of 10%, 15%, even 20% annual increases in sales are long gone. “Flat” seems to be the new goal for television, radio, print, outdoor, and many other traditional media. Different phrases are being tossed around, as media companies say they are ”treading water,” “hanging in there,” “exploring new revenue streams,” and so on.

Let’s face it. The world has changed, and, unfortunately, the forecast for 2009 doesn’t bode well for many of these same industries. Traditional media is forecast to continue its downward slide, anywhere from 2% to 25% by medium, depending on which forecasts or experts are cited. Even emerging media forms have not escaped unscathed, with forecasted growth adjusted downward from original projections. The only certainty is that these are unprecedented times.

Which leads us to the question: WHY IS IT A GOOD TIME TO ADVERTISE?

Masked Opportunity for Advertisers
There are two main reasons for advertisers to bite the bullet, spending those increasingly precious, and probably carefully monitored, dollars: 1) Overall media consumption is higher than ever, and 2) Media rates are more negotiable than ever.

Media Consumption
Certainly, more forms of media exist today than ever before. Thus, the opportunities to connect with consumers are greater than ever. While this can make it increasingly difficult to determine which media will achieve marketing goals, it also makes it clear that consumers are spending more time with media. The latest research supports this notion, stating that Americans are watching 3.6% more television than they did a year ago. Mobile viewing grew 9% in the 4th Quarter of 2008 alone. Internet usage also continues to increase, up 3.6% from a year ago.

Consumers may have more control, but there are an increasing amount of opportunities through which marketers can reach out and connect with them, in whatever form it takes.

Rate Negotiability
Simply put, there has arguably never been a better time to buy media. Rates across most media are down from a year ago, both on a national and local level. Inventory is plentiful and, in what is still a predominantly supply and demand market, the demand is simply not there.

Have you seen ads for the ShamWow? How about Billy Mays’ Big City Slider Station? These direct response spots have been getting premium placements in the 1st Quarter of this year because inventory on many TV stations and networks have allowed for it.

Media companies, trying to generate and stimulate sales in any way possible, have been forced to lower rates and offer more in terms of sales packages for advertisers. The percentage of savings available now as compared to a year ago varies widely by medium and individual vendor, but is no doubt growing. Media companies are more willing to listen, negotiate and, ultimately, make deals that are at levels well below previous years.

The Net Effect
With media being so “affordable” today, advertisers have the ability to gain a significant share-of-voice over the competition. As competitors struggle, increasing brand awareness and sales becomes easier, especially if the competition is silent with their messaging.

Advertisers are also increasingly exploring media options that may have been deemed too expensive previously. In doing so, it has become apparent that media priced out of range before is now within grasp – and at attractive price points.

MayoSeitz Media Perspective
There’s no arguing it – we are in a new era. The media and advertising business has changed forever. For those marketers able to weather the current economic storm, there has never been a better time to advertise.

Now is also the time to explore new and exciting media options that may not have been in the consideration set before due to affordability concerns. This should not just be about “getting a good deal.” Advertisers should seek out creative solutions to the marketing issues at hand, utilizing both traditional and new media.

Media consumption is at an all-time high. Take a look at what’s available and utilize media forms for their relative strengths in order to grow your business. By working with media vendors, customized programs can be created to advance the organization forward during this “soft” media climate. Oh, and try to do it now, because conditions will change someday and these opportunities may not be there in the future.