U.S. Ad Spending Slowed Down in March

But P&G, GM and Verizon All Increased Spending

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Marketers still worried about the course of the economy held their U.S. ad spending nearly flat in the first quarter, nudging the total up 0.6% from the period a year earlier, and probably didn't pick up the pace in the second quarter, according to a new report from TNS Media Intelligence. The top 10 advertisers spent $4.4 billion from January through March, the report said, for a slight gain of 1.6%. Spending on the top 10 ad categories fell 1.8% to $17.4 billion.

"Enduring concerns about economic conditions and consumer spending behavior continued to cast a pall over the advertising market during the first quarter," said Jon Swallen, senior VP-research at TNS, in today's report. "After a hopeful start to the year, the pace of ad spending slowed perceptibly during March, and early figures from the second quarter indicate little immediate or sustained improvement in the core ad economy."

Internet spending up
Internet ad spending -- excluding paid search ads, which TNS does not track -- grew a solid 8.5% in the first quarter. That's a slower pace, however, than the double-digit growth rate achieved a year earlier.

Some parts of the TV business, meanwhile, presented hardy competition. Syndicated TV won a big 11.2% increase with the help of additional programming hours and insulation from the effects of the writers' strike. Cable TV revenue grew 4.1%, a slower rate of growth than recently seen. Network TV managed a 0.8% gain, which was, for what it's worth, the sector's best quarterly gain in two years. Spanish-language TV spending expanded 4.4%.

In print, consumer magazines held the line but couldn't advance more than 0.2%, according to TNS estimates. Spanish-language magazines fared better from a smaller base, adding 14.2% to their take. Sunday magazines saw ad spending increase 17.1% partly because of the extra week in the quarter this year.

Newspapers continue to fall
Newspapers' print ad revenue continued its persistent decline as national papers sank another 6.2%, local papers fell 5% and Spanish-language papers slid 5.3%.

National radio grew 12%, partly on the strength of that extra week in the quarter, while national spot radio slipped 3.1% and local radio fell 7.2%.

Among big advertisers, Proctor & Gamble continued to reign supreme, aggressively increasing its advertising outlay by 15.8% from January through March to reach a total of $836.4 million, TNS said. General Motors pumped up its budget by 12.6% for a total of $532.1 million. And Verizon's ad spend grew 10.4% to $531.1 million.

Biggest gains
The biggest percentage gains came from News Corp., up 22.5% to $400.6 million, and PepsiCo, up 39.5% to $334.4 million. Big declines arrived from AT&T, down 14.6% to $468.1 million; Johnson & Johnson, down 15.3% to $308.1 million; and Ford, down 31% to $291 million.

Domestic automotive as a category continued to shrink, reducing spending another 16% to $1.4 billion. Import-auto ad spending fell 7.4% to $1.8 billion. Telecom advertisers cut ad spending 7.5% to $2.1 billion.

Direct-response advertising seemed to benefit from this year's increased demand for accountability in ad spending; its take grew 9.3% to reach $1.9 billion.
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