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U.S. Ad Spending Grew 6.5% in 2010 as Auto Surged and Pharma Hit a Low

TV, Online Display Enjoyed Big Gains While Local Newspapers Continued to Falter

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U.S. ad spending grew 6.5% last year to $131.1 billion, according to new data from Kantar Media.

Ad spending had plunged 12.3% in 2009. But 2010 became a story of steady recovery, as a 5.1% first quarter gain -- the first quarterly gain in two years -- was followed by increases of 5.4% in the second quarter, 8.7% in the third quarter and, most recently, 7% in the fourth quarter.

The recovery, however, continues to pick favorites in the media business.

"The feel-good headline is the ad economy grew by 6.5% in 2010," Jon Swallen, senior VP for research at Kantar Media North America, said in a statement accompanying the data. "The more comprehensive assessment is that increased spending has not benefitted all sectors equally. While television media have recouped their losses from the 2009 advertising downturn, several other large segments are still 15 to 20 percent below their 2008 peaks."

Those large segments include radio, which increased 7.6% during 2010 as a whole; magazines, which grew 2.9%; and newspapers, which declined 3.5%, according to Kantar.

Newspapers, the only major media category to decline last year, hit a 25-year low in their ad revenue across print and digital, a separate report said yesterday.

National newspapers -- The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The New York Times -- did expand ad revenue 2.7%, mostly due to growth at The Journal, while local newspapers slid 4.6%, Kantar said.

Among magazines, ad revenue grew 5.5% at Spanish-language titles, 4.6% at Sunday magazines and 3.3% at consumer titles. It declined 1.2% at business-to-business magazines.

TV, meanwhile, expanded 10.3% in 2010 as spot TV shot up 24.2%, Spanish-language TV rose 10.7%, cable TV grew 9.8%, broadcast networks increased 5.3% and nationally syndicated TV slipped 2.8%, according to Kantar.

Among other top gainers, display advertising on the web increased 9.9% and outdoor advertising grew 9.6%. Kantar does not track keyword search advertising on the web.

Procter & Gamble was the biggest advertiser for the eighth year in a row, expanding its outlay 17.7% in 2010 to spend $3.1 billion, Kantar said. No. 10 advertiser L'Oreal increased its 2010 ad spending 30.6% over 2009, the fastest growth among the top spenders.

Two of the top 10 advertisers made the list despite cutting spending by double digits: Verizon, which cut back 15.2%, and Pfizer, which reduced ad spending 11.7%.

And two automakers took top 10 spots: No. 2 General Motors, which trimmed ad spending 1.3%, and No. 9 Ford, which ramped up spending 11.1%. Both would have posted bigger increases except for their heavy ad spending in the fourth quarter of 2009 as auto sales started to rebound, which created difficult comparisons for the fourth quarter of 2010.

Automotive advertising shot up 19.8% on the whole, however, as manufacturers spent 16.4% more than in 2009 and dealers spent 26.3% more.

Automotive was by far the biggest U.S. ad category last year, chalking up $13 billion in spending, according to Kantar. Telecom came in second with nearly $8.8 billion.

Of the 10 largest ad categories in 2010, only two declined: direct response advertising, which fell 5.8%, and pharmaceuticals, which fell 8.2%. Pharmaceuticals' ad spending totaled $4.3 billion, its lowest total since 2003.

Percentage Change in Measured Ad Spending
Percentage Change in Measured Ad Spending
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