US Ad Spend Down 1.7% through Q3

December 15, 2008

Total measured advertising expenditures in the first nine months of 2008 declined 1.7% as compared with the same period in 2007, and ad spend during Q3 was down 2.0% vs. last year, according to data released today by TNS Media Intelligence.

Ad Spending by Media

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For the nine month period, internet display advertising expenditures increased 7.0% as marketers continued to expand their online investments. However, growth rates have been shrinking for five consecutive quarters.

The Summer Olympics boosted third-quarter network TV ad spending and turned a six-month loss into a nine month gain with year-to-date expenditures up 3.0%. Cable TV (+3.7%) was aided by limited exposure to the early-year TV writer’s strike
and successful summer programming. Syndication TV (+9.0%) benefitted from more hours of programming.

Consumer magazine ad spending was down 3.8% with the reduction broadly distributed across a number of key categories, including apparel, direct response and pharmaceutical, TNS said.

Local media expenditures continue to deteriorate in the wake of cutbacks from automotive, retail and telecom advertisers. Spot TV fell 2.6% despite record-setting levels of political spending. Expenditures plunged by 10.0% in newspaper media and by 8.8% in radio media. Outdoor advertising, after six years of uninterrupted growth, fell into the red during Q3 and finished the nine-month period with a loss of 0.5%

Overall, local media ad spending was down 6.7% through September, while national media eked out a small increase of 0.9%.

“Media ad spending, which began tiptoeing into negative territory in early 2007, has crossed an inflection point in the past six months as the economic downturn has become more widespread,” said Jon Swallen, SVP, research at TNS Media Intelligence. “Preliminary data from the fourth quarter indicate a further slackening of the overall advertising market. Consumer spending levels, which drive the corporate profits that in turn fund marketing budgets, remain a serious concern and will have a strong influence on the depth and duration of the current difficulties facing advertising.”

Ad Spending by Advertiser

The top 10 advertisers in the first nine months of 2008 spent a combined total of $12,834.6 million, a 0.2% decrease from last year.

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Across the top 50 companies, a more diversified group of marketers representing nearly one-third of total ad expenditures, spending fell by 2.1%.

Procter & Gamble held its position as the largest advertiser with $2,291.4 million in expenditures for the January-September period, a 5.9% decline versus a year ago.

Verizon Communications continues to escalate marketing supporting for its wireless division, causing a 12.8% increase in total ad spending, to $1,713.8 million. By comparison, rival AT&T reduced its outlays 13.7%, to $1,453.2 million, the biggest drop among the top 10 companies.

General Motors remains the lone automotive representative on the top-10 list (Toyota and Ford ranked #11 and #12, respectively). In the face of dismal industry sales and its own eroding market share, GM aggressively hiked ad spending by 15.7%, to $1,590.4 million, and concurrently reallocated budgets away from light trucks,? toward passenger cars.

Strong increases were also registered by General Electric (+12.8% to $894.0 million) and News Corp (+10.4% to $1,061.5 million) while Time Warner (-10.5%, to $1,097.1 million) and Walt Disney (-6.4%, to $887.7 million) had sizable reductions. Results for each of these companies were primarily shaped by their movie studio divisions, TNS said.

Ad Spending by Category

The top 10 advertising categories in January-September 2008 spent a total of $54,222.2 million, down 1.0% from a year ago, TNS stated.

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Automotive was the top-spending category at $9,626.7 million, a drop of 12.7%, which is proportionately in line with the drop in new vehicle sales. Spending cutbacks were more severe for the domestic segment than imports. Automotive expenditures have now declined for 13 consecutive quarters.

Financial services advertising rebounded modestly in Q3 after a lackluster first half and the category finished the nine-month period at $6,765.2 million, up 0.8%. During Q3, advertising for investment products picked up and retail bank spending was flat as these marketers grappled with consumer’s growing concerns about shrinking portfolios and the safety of their deposits. Loan advertising was down sharply.

Among the leading categories, the largest percentage gain was posted by restaurants, up 6.1% to $4,278.6 million, as quick-service eateries battled to maintain store traffic and market share amidst a progressive slowdown in consumer spending.

Food and candy (+6.0% to $4,632.0 million) and local services & amusements (+2.3% to $6.274.3 million) also lifted their spending.

Telecommunications expenditures fell 5.2% to $6,296.6 million, primarily because of $600+ million in cutbacks by AT&T and Sprint Nextel. Miscellaneous retail, which includes all retail segments except department stores and home furnishings/appliance stores, was down 4.8% to $5,949.7 million.

“By most accounts, the current economic recession will be deep and lengthy and with it will come continuing challenges for the advertising and media industries,” said Dean DeBiase, CEO of TNS Media. “Undoubtedly, these industries will have to make some hard decisions in the coming months, decisions that perhaps had been deferred during periods of growth. But ultimately, this period can be viewed as an opportunity to effect such changes, leading to a leaner and more effective industry in the years ahead.”

Branded Entertainment

In Q3 2008, an average hour of monitored prime-time network programming – in minutes and seconds – contained exactly 9 minutes (9:00) of in-show brand appearances, a nine percent increase from a year ago. In addition, there were 13:41 per hour of network commercial messages. The combined total of 22:41 of marketing content represents 38% of a prime-time hour.

Unscripted reality programming had an average of 10:12 per hour of brand appearances compared with just 6:10 per hour for scripted programs such as sitcoms and dramas. Late-night network talk shows averaged 15:15 per hour. The combined load of brand appearances and network ad messages in these shows was 30:28 per hour, or 51% of total programming time.

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Among all monitored network programming in Q3, America’s Toughest Jobs had the highest average volume of brand-appearance time, at 46:31 per hour. Rounding out the top five were Knight Rider (40:01); CSI: Miami (31:29); Biggest Loser: Families (29:27); and Amazing Race (28:22).

About the research: In addition to monitoring ad expenditures in all major media, TNS Media Intelligence continuously monitors branded entertainment within network prime time and late night programming. The tracking identifies brand appearances and measures their duration and attributes.

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