Internet Ad Spend Dips 5% in Q1

It’s official — even online advertising isn’t recession proof.

U.S. Internet ad spending slid in the first quarter of this year by 5 percent compared to the same period last year, netting out at $5.5 billion, according to the latest report issued by Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

That figure represents the lowest ad spending level in nearly two years, and a decline of roughly 10 percent vs. the fourth quarter — when the industry’s long period of nearly uninterrupted growth showed signs of stalling.

The 5 percent decline is hardly surprising, given the widespread talk in the online industry of a weak display ad market. Recently, eMarketer revised its 2009 online ad spending growth projection from 8.9 percent to 4.5 percent — predicting that spending for the year would net out at $24.5 billion.

However, IAB and PwC officials said that considering the impact of the recession, the Web was still fairing better than other media. “Current economic conditions are clearly challenging,” said David Silverman, a PwC partner. “Nonetheless, interactive media continues to consume a larger piece of the overall advertising pie.”