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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
By Cam Bishop, CEO
Over the course of the last three years or so, the media and event industries have taken a major beating due to a combination of the economic downturn and the paradigm shift occurring from changes and uncertainties created by the Internet.
It was particularly interesting and telling last year when the U.S. government’s debt was downgraded. Ascend has a team of 10 media sales specialists who sell print and digital advertising, event and trade show sponsorships and exhibit booth space for many of our 60+ clients. Quite literally, within 10 days of the U.S. credit downgrade, they began to detect a very material shift in tone, confidence and media spend as they had discussions with hundreds of clients and prospects. This virtual sea change in demeanor occurred across all 20 of the B2B, health care and consumer market sectors that Ascend’s clients represent.
Since Ascend largely sells from two to six months in advance for its clients’ projects, the broad-based decrease in business and consumer confidence really impacted fourth quarter business last year. The net affect was a client base and an Ascend team member and customer base that largely began 2011 with a cautiously optimistic tenor, a pretty good start on the year and then ended the year rather discouraged.
But then, a new day dawned as we entered 2012. Several new clients came on board for the year after months of discussions and planning. (Welcome IMEX, EnergyWorks KC, American Heart Association exhibit booth sales, American Society for Public Administration, Alzheimers Association, Professional Convention Management Association, National Indian Gaming Association, World Mining Expo, Bizbash, Association of Change Management Professionals and CalPers!)
Projects for clients suddenly began to not just hit goals but consistently over-deliver. And exceed goals, they have indeed. Some results have just been off-the-charts successful. Take our work for American Heart Association’s annual Stroke Meeting. Sales results for this event were more than double last year’s, as well as being an all-time revenue record.
Following closely on the heels of the Stroke meeting came the American Academy of Dermatology. While we’ve broken many revenue records for this client over the 20 or so years we’ve partnered with them, 2012 was an all-time record high. Off-the-charts performance for one of our top five largest meeting clients.
Suddenly, around the office, we could see a change in tone and energy and confidence. There is a level of excitement and enthusiasm and optimism that most likely, most media companies and agencies haven’t experienced for years.
So, suddenly, hey, this business is a lot of fun! Things are growing, business is moving, new ideas are launching. There’s a vibrant energy that continues to build on itself.
No better example could be made than our current work for another long-term partner client, the American Thoracic Society. Our work selling print and digital advertising as well as their sponsorship inventory is nothing short of fantastic. With a May meeting and weeks to go before all media and sponsorship inventory is closed, this event is already at 121 percent of last year’s all-time record.
For both our Ascend team members and our partner clients, the icing on the cake is the fact that, across the board, media sales and repping work for our custom magazine and journal publishing clients is following a very similar increasing trend. Two repping clients already are seeing bookings at 60 percent to 80 percent of last year’s total business.
It’s just more proof that a rising tide lifts all boats.