Cautious splurge: the art of luxury advertising

December 5, 2008

Advertising at the highest end of the luxury market may be the last to get hit in an economic slump, but it’s still going to get scathed before the ad market turns around, Nick Brien, who heads up Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands, a holding company for media buying and planning agencies,  told the Reuters Media Summit in New York.

“There will always be some brands and marketers who are going to want to live beyond the realities that are going on for the masses of people,” said Brien, who’s responsible for agencies like Universal McCann, Initiative, Magna, and J3 . “That will go on… (but) will it be as pronounced as it was, will be it as mainstream?”

Brien didn’t think so. Not when even Russian billionaires — with their boats and Rolexes — are feeling the pinch, he said. “Even if their wealth is coming down from a billion to half a billion, that’s what it is — it’s coming down,” Brien said.

As a result, “the messaging is going to change very considerably.” Brien said Mediabrands clients globally have expressed concern recently that consumers are facing too much choice, especially at a time when “they have less funds, they have less confidence and they’re going to be much more considered and careful about the choices they make.” As CEO of Mediabrands, Brien oversees agencies that control billions of dollars in ad spend globally, though notes that most of his clients aren’t in the super high-end luxury goods business.

So for high-end luxury goods advertisers, it’s now going to be less about what media channel to use to spread their message of decadent living, and more about reworking marketing strategies to ensure big spenders still distribute their (slightly) shrinking wealth among pricey trinkets in these times of stress.

(Photo: Reuters)

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