U.S. advertising spending during the first quarter of 2013 was flat compared to the year-earlier period, reflecting television network ratings woes and caution amid mixed signals on the economy.
Marketers during the January-March period spent $30.2 billion, according to a quarterly advertising analysis released Tuesday by Kantar Media. That represented a decline of less than 1% compared to the first quarter of 2012.
Spending was surpressed, in large part, because the major broadcast TV networks, including Fox, NBC and ABC, were suffering from falling ratings. NBC went through a prolonged first-quarter dry spell, and ratings for Fox's once-mighty "American Idol" tumbled 20%.
Spanish-language television was the top performer as advertisers raced to embrace Latino consumers.
Spending for Spanish-language TV jumped 13.5% for the period, which marked the seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, according to Kantar's analysis. The segment is dominated by two major players: Univision Communications Inc. and NBCUniversal's Telemundo.
Overall spending for network TV was down 5.2%, Kantar found. Ad buys for syndicated TV shows slipped 1%.
Spending for cable television commercials increased 5.2%, boosted by NCAA basketball tournament games and larger appetites for commercial time by restaurants and carmakers.
Local newspaper advertising declined 3.3% while national newspapers dropped 9.2%. Kantar said the lower amount was because of reductions in spending by financial services firms and Hollywood movie studios, which trimmed their print budgets.
Spending on billboards increased 4.3%, the 11th consecutive quarter of year-over-year increases. Retail and restaurants led the way.
“It has been a lackluster start for 2013," Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media North America, said in a statement. He noted the flat year-over-year results were in part because of tough comparisons with 2012, which was fueled by political spending and the London Olympics.
Results have not been compiled for the second quarter, which ends this weekend.
“Data from the early second quarter are mixed, suggesting marketers are still being cautious and conservative with ad budgets," Swallen said. "However, there are some bright spots, including healthy growth for Hispanic media and outdoor."
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