If the economy has a canary in the coal mine, it's advertising.
Companies tend to slash their budgets at the first sign of a slowdown, and this recession is no exception. Global advertising spending is forecast to drop 6.9 percent this year, the biggest decline in at least 29 years, according to ZenithOptimedia. Carat, an independent media firm, expects a decline of 5.8 percent this year and growth of 0.7 percent next year. Veteran ad forecaster Robert Coen has a comparatively more optimistic prediction of a decline of 4.9 percent.