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The ad industry’s critical challenge

Greetings from France. I’m at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, where the skies are sunny and the industry outlook is dark. This morning, Marcel Fenez, managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ global entertainment and media practice, laid out the dismal details. He called the current recession in ad spending “not cyclical but structural.”

Which means that the advertising business has permanently changed. And it’s going to be rough sailing for a long while. Global ad spending will decline 12.1% this year, Fenez estimated. Next year will be another bad year — down 2.7% — before an upturn begins in 2011.

That’s the worldwide view, and the U.S. picture looks even worse. Fernez forecast a 14.8% drop in spending this year and 3.3% next year.  Hardest hit: TV, newspapers and consumer magazines. (That’s us at Fortune!)  Stealing share as the total pie shrinks: Video-game companies and the Internet. (That’s us at!)

“The upturn will be all about structural change,” says Fenez. So what’s a big fat media company to do? In lieu of getting more ad revenues, media outfits will try to get consumers to pay for content, particularly digital as the world goes in that direction. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2009 survey of consumers across the globe indicate that they’re game to pay for quality and premium content. So, says Fenez, we’ll see lots of experimenting with micropayments, stored-value cards, and “all you can eat” subscriptions. But it won’t be easy getting people to pay for what they’ve gotten used to getting for free.

To take a deeper dive into the global outlook and the challenges, you can go to and see the full report, executive summary and video….Now heading to the Cannes Lions Tweet-up with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and Hill & Knowlton. More later! — Pattie Sellers