Q1 ad spending flat

But Web sector leaps

NEW YORK -- A strong upfront marketplace notwithstanding, first-quarter ad spending wasn’t much to write home about.

Nielsen Monitor-Plus said Monday that ad spending was mostly flat in the 17 media it tracks. The best-performing sectors were national Sunday supplements (up 19% compared with first-quarter 2007), cable TV (up 13%), African-American TV (up 13%) and network radio (up 10%).

Trailing were local Sunday supplements (down 13%), business-to-business (down 6%) and newspapers (down 6%). The top 100 spot TV markets were about flat year-over-year, while the smaller markets — which have been quicker to see effects of the recession — fell 4%. Network TV was down 3% quarter-over-quarter even in a robust scatter market, while syndicated TV was up 2%.

Online ad spend was up 15%, with health and telecommunications ads leading the pack along with hardware and electronics. Financial services impressions fell by double digits.

The top advertising category remained automotive, though it was down 8% year-over-year. Three of the remaining top five categories (pharmaceutical, auto dealerships and wireless) were flat, while quick-service restaurants were up 4%.

The top advertiser again was Procter & Gamble, which boosted advertising 20% year-over-year. At No. 2 was General Motors, up 9%, while AT&T cut its ad spend 16% and rival Verizon was flat.