Q1 Ad Spending Flat, per Nielsen

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 at just over $30 billion in the 17 media it tracks. The best-performing sectors were national Sunday supplements (up 19 percent compared with first-quarter 2007), cable TV and African-American TV (both up 13 percent) and network radio (up 10 percent).

Trailing were local Sunday supplements (down 13 percent), business-to-business (down 6 percent) and newspapers (down 6 percent). 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 percent. Network TV was down 3 percent quarter-over-quarter even in a robust scatter market, while syndicated TV was up 2 percent.

Online ad spending was up 15 percent, 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 at $2.7 billion overall, though it was down 8 percent year-over-year (and vehicle ads were down about 12 percent). Three of the remaining top five categories (pharmaceutical, auto dealerships and wireless) were flat, while quick-service restaurants were up 4 percent.

The top advertiser again was Procter & Gamble, which boosted advertising 20 percent year-over-year to slightly more than $900 million. At No. 2 was General Motors, up 9 percent while AT&T cut its ad spend 16 percent and rival Verizon was flat. All told, the top 10 advertisers spent $4.2 billion in Q1, an increase of about 2 percent.

Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.