U.S. ad spend increased 0.6% in Q1


Total measured advertising expenditures in the opening quarter of 2008 increased by 0.6% as compared to the same period in 2007, according to data released by TNS Media Intelligence. Growth leadership, on a percentage basis, was strongest among smaller media types. Sunday Magazines (+17.1%) and Network Radio (+12.0%) were boosted by an extra week in their reporting quarters. Syndication TV expenditures surged 11.2%, aided by more hours of programming and limited exposure to the writer’s strike.

Internet display advertising fell back from its double-digit growth rates of last year but still achieved a healthy gain of 8.5%. Cable TV (+4.1%) and Outdoor (+2.5%) also experienced some slowing compared to recent periods.

Elsewhere, Network TV expenditures increased 0.8%, its best quarterly performance in two full years. Consumer Magazine spend was up just 0.2% as higher budgets from food advertisers were neutralized by reduced commitments from direct response and pharmaceutical marketers. Spot TV spend slipped 2.4%, despite easy comparisons against 2007 levels. The Newspaper sector, beset by the continuing weakness in automotive and real estate, experienced a 5.2% decline in total spending.

The top 10 advertisers in Q1 spent a combined total of $4,425.5 million, a 1.6% increase from last year. Across the top 50 companies, a more diversified group of marketers representing nearly one-third of total ad expenditures, spending fell by 1.4%.

Procter & Gamble maintained its position as the largest advertiser with $836.4 million in spending, a robust 15.8% increase versus a year ago. The company aggressively expanded advertising support across its portfolios of personal care and household cleaning products. PepsiCo vaulted into the Top 10, posting a 39.5% increase to $334.4 million on higher spending for the Gatorade brand line.

Among the auto manufacturers, General Motors hiked its media budgets by 12.6%, to $532.1 million. Model redesigns for the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CTS triggered much of the incremental spending. By contrast, Ford Motor Company slashed its ad expenditures 31.0%, to $291.1 million with the reductions spread across its auto and truck divisions.

Leading telecommunication companies turned in mixed results. Verizon Communications spent $531.1 million in the period, a gain of 10.4%. AT&T lowered its advertising budgets by 14.6% to $468.1 million.

The Top 10 advertising categories in the first quarter of 2008 spent an aggregate $17,399.4 million, down 1.8% from a year ago. Financial Services remained the top category at $2,235.5 million, eking out an increase of 0.3% despite cutbacks from many of the top companies across the banking, credit card and lending segments.

Telecommunications category spending slipped 7.5% to $2,053.8 million. Higher expenditures by cable and satellite TV companies were more than offset by reductions at major wireless providers.

Continued weakness in the auto marketplace was reflected in lower ad budgets throughout the industry. The Non-Domestic Auto segment shrank 7.4% to $1,764.7 million and Domestic Auto plummeted 16.0% to $1,445.5 million. The declines were spread across all tiers – factory, dealer associations and local dealers – and were especially severe for light truck vehicles. Automotive advertising has now declined for eleven consecutive quarters.

On the positive side, Direct Response had the largest percentage gain, up 9.3% to $1,912.0 million. The category showed deep strength with higher ad spending levels from a broad range of brands. Local Services & Amusements (+4.3%), Restaurants (+3.2%) and Travel & Tourism (+3.1%) posted comparatively strong gains.

TNS media intelligence continuously monitors Branded Entertainment within network prime time and late night programming. In Q1, an average hour of monitored prime time network programming contained 12 minutes, 8 seconds (12:08) of in-show Brand Appearances and 15:05 of network commercial messages. The combined total of 27:13 of marketing content represents 45% of a prime-time hour.

Unscripted reality programming had an average of 17:19 per hour of Brand Appearances as compared to just 5:29 per hour for scripted programs such as sitcoms and dramas. Late night network talk shows averaged 12:17 per hour. The combined load of Brand Appearances and network ad messages in these shows reached 26:53 per hour, or 45% of total programming time.

Among all monitored network programming during the period, The Biggest Loser: Couples had the highest average volume of Brand Appearance time at 47 minutes, 26 seconds (47:26) per hour. Rounding out the top five were Quarterlife (40.32); American Idol (31:00); Celebrity Apprentice (27:40); and Jimmy Kimmel Live (24:30).