Nielsen: Ad spending down 2.6% in 2008

Newspapers hit hardest; cable TV generates most revenue

The top 10 advertisers cut ad budgets by 15% last year, sending total advertising down 2.6% to $136.8 billion in 2008, according to preliminary figures released Friday by Nielsen's Monitor-Plus ad tracking service.

Of the 19 media segments reported by Monitor-Plus, only two, Hispanic cable TV and cable TV posted growth, up 9.6% and 7.8%, respectively. Cable TV was the highest revenue-generating medium with $26.6 billion.

Even the Internet (display ads), typically the fastest-growing medium, took a hit, down 6.4% last year.

Newspapers suffered the most. National newspapers were down 9.6%. Local newspapers dropped 10.2% and local Sunday supplements had the biggest drop, down 11%.

Procter & Gamble was the nation's top ad spender last year, but like all the top 10 advertisers, P&G drastically cut its budget. The packaged goods company spent 19.3% less in 2008.

The automotive companies remain in the top 10, but all cut budgets. Cerberus Capital Management (Chrysler) made the deepest cut, spending 31.2% less last year. Ford Motor Co. slashed its budget by 28.5%. General Motors' spending was down 14.9%.

Foreign automakers also trimmed ad spending, Toyota by 6.6% and Honda by 2.8%.

Also making drastic reductions, Time Warner reduced its spending by 23.7%.

The only two advertising categories of advertisers to increase spending last year were quick-service restaurants, up 3.8%; and, as anyone who has watched TV knows, direct-response products, up 9.2%.