Top marketers became more stingy with their ad dollars in the third quarter, contributing only 0.3% growth to $33.7 billion, according to Kantar Media's latest report.
"After a relatively robust first half when spend grew by 3.1%, the pace of ad spending slowed during Q3 and a principal cause was Top 100 marketers becoming more restrained with their budgets," said Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media North America, in a statement.
The third quarter was also the third quarterly year-over-year decline for top ad spender Procter & Gamble, whose January-through-September spending fell 16.1% from the period a year earlier, to $2 billion from $2.39 billion, Kantar Media said.
Two telecom advertisers landed in the Top Ten for the first three quarters of the year but their ad budgets moved in opposite directions: AT&T, the second largest advertiser in the nine-month period, trimmed expenditures 11.3% from a year earlier to $1.26 billion. Verizon raised its investments 12.6% to $969.4 million.
An upswing for mid-size marketers, described by Kantar as the "core of the ad market," provided contrast for the mega brands pulling back. They grew their total spending by 6% to 7% during the quarter, Kantar Media said.
As an ad category, insurance saw the fastest year-over-year growth during the first nine months of 2014, with ad spending leaping 14.4% to $4.21 billion, thanks to "aggressive competition for market share among auto insurers," Kantar Media said.
Retail, the top category with January-September expenditures of $10.7 billion, slipped 0.8% from the nine month a year earlier. Automotive, the second largest category with ad spending of $10.42 billion, saw a declined 4%.
Internet display spending fell 1.7% in the third quarter due to fewer page views by desktop P.C. users, creating fewer impressions for publishers to sell, according to the report. For the period from January through September, internet display spending fell 5.7%, Kantar Media said.
Kantar Media's internet display figures do not include mobile spending.
Spending with newspapers and magazines continued to fall. Newspaper media fell 13% in the third quarter and reflected "commensurate reductions in volume of space sold," Kantar Media found. And consumer magazine spending dropped 4.6% as lower budgets from consumer packaged-goods and auto advertisers "erased" gains from the apparel and pharmaceutical categories.