U.S. ad spending down in first half of 2009

Total of $56.9 billion spent represents 15.4% decline

NEW YORK -- U.S. ad spending fell 15.4% in the first half of 2009, according to data released today by the Nielsen Co. A total of $56.9 billion was spent on advertising in the first six months of the year, more than $10.3 billion less than the same period in 2008.

The automotive industry was the top spender ($3.68 billion), despite a 31% cut over last year. Local auto dealerships -- also a perennial top-10 spending category -- cut its ad budget 26% through June 2009.

It wasn't all bad news for the advertising industry this year. Cable TV was the only media category to see added spending with a 1.5% surge overall and a 0.6% increase for Spanish-language cable TV. Quick-service Restaurants -- the second highest-spending industry -- spent $2.2 billion in the first half of '09, thanks to a 5% increase over the first half of 2008. And spending on multi-function cell phones more than doubled to almost $233 million.

"While some of the larger categories have cut back spending, we see others that continue to raise the ante on their media investments," said Annie Touliatos, vp of Nielsen's advertising information services.

"What's interesting is that we're not just seeing a rise in spending for recession-friendly products like fast-food restaurants. We're seeing a lot more promotion of technological innovations like smart phones, computer software and consumer-driven Web sites," Touliatos said. "These advertisers see potential for their products despite our stressed economy and are leveraging advertising to drive their success."

Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.