Advertising spending for the first half of 2008 fell 1.4 percent to $67.6 billion, compared to the same period a year ago, according to figures released by Nielsen Monitor-Plus.
Ad spending by the top 10 advertisers was down almost 6 percent to $7.7 billion, versus the same period a year ago, per the Nielsen data.
By media sector, cable TV, with generally cheaper ad rates than broadcast, was a big gainer, posting an 8 percent increase over the first half of 2007. Network TV was down 6 percent and local newspapers were down 7 percent. Spot radio, the biggest loser by sector, dropped 10 percent.
Within specific categories, automotive continued to struggle and showed the largest drop, down 8 percent to $5.3 billion. Spending in the pharmaceutical category was down almost 5 percent to $2.6 billion. Auto dealerships were down 1 percent to $2.2 billion.
Category gainers included direct response (up 20 percent to $1.4 billion), credit cards (up 19 percent to $860 million) and quick-service restaurants (up 9 percent to $2.2 billion).
The new figures come during a week in which the mortgage crisis has sent stocks into their worst nosedive of the year and amid an increasingly gloomier economic outlook in many quarters.
Two months ago both Magna and Zenith, two widely followed ad spend forecasters, reduced their estimates for full-year spending growth to the low single digits. Magna cut its estimate in half to 2 percent, while Zenith revised its forecast down to 3.5 percent. Now there is talk that those estimates are high and that 2009 will see ad spending contract overall.
Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.