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National media ad spending in 1996 crested at $66.7 billion, an 11.4% increase from '95 and the highest annual growth point for the decade, according to 11-media totals compiled by Competitive Media Reporting.

Network TV, as it usually does on an annual basis, pulled the largest ad volume, at $14.4 billion, up 16.5%, followed by spot TV at $14.2 billion, up 7.7%; newspapers at $13.9 billion, up 4.4%; and magazines at $11.2 billion, up 9.5%.


Network growth nonetheless showed some signs of weakening in the fourth quarter (up 9.7%), as the blush faded from its previous two quarters, infused by advertising for the Olympics and presidential election.

General Motors Corp. continued to lead all advertisers in media spending at $1.71 billion, up 14.2%. Procter & Gamble Co. remained in second place at $1.45 billion, down 2.9%. GM in particular accelerated its network TV outlays, up 22.6% to $613.9 million.

Only newspapers, among the big media, seemed to be on shifting sand at yearend. Though garnering 4.4% ad growth for the full year, they slipped badly in the fourth quarter, dropping 4% below the prior-year quarter. A shorter holiday season and lackluster retail sales no doubt directed the slide.

Up until the '96 media returns, the decade's leading growth year was 1994, up

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