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U.S. Ad Spending Down Only 1.4 Percent in First Half of '08

Advertising spending for the first half of 2008 declined slightly compared to the same period last year, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen.

Network television ad totals fell by 8 percent compared to last year, while advertising spent on syndicated television programs grew by 7.2 percent. Only cable TV exceeded the growth in syndie, with 8.1 percent. Spot itself was another bright spot for broadcasters, up 2.6 percent in the 100 largest designated market areas, and nearly 3 percent in the rest.

Among ad spenders, credit cards and direct response advertising increased the most, nearly 19 percent and more than 20 percent respectively. The $860 million spent by credit card companies was powered by substantial increases from Discover, Bank of America and Washington Mutual. The nearly $1.4 billion from direct response was boosted by Allstar Marketing Group, Video Professor and Rosetta Stone.

Automotive, the biggest spender for TV, dropped 8.01 percent, from nearly $5.8 billion last year to $5.3 billion this year. Spending by auto dealerships, often a larger source of revenue for local stations, fell less than a percent, from nearly $2.26 billion to $2.24 billion. Pharmaceutical and movie studios spent about 5 percent less this year on advertising than during the first six months of 2007, contributing a combined total of nearly $4.8 billion.

Spending by the top 10 individual companies was down around 6 percent, from $8.1 billion last year to $7.7 billion in the first half of 2008. Only three of the top 10--Pepsi, General Motors and Verizon--spent more than last year. Proctor & Gamble, the single biggest spender on advertising, cut back by 4.3 percent, spending $1.59 billion compared to $1.66 billion last year.