Ad spending 2009: Even media is buying less media

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How brutal is the advertising market? Even big media isn’t spending as much on big media.

Advertising tracker TNS Media Intelligence this morning issued the grim news that ad spending plummeted 14.3% to $60.87 billion during the first six months of 2009 compared with the first half of 2008. The second quarter of 2009 became the fifth consecutive quarter to post year-over-year declines.

Among those cutting back on advertising was media itself. Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and Time Warner Inc. all reined in ad spending in the first half of the year. Spending by Time Warner was down 11.1% to $574.3 million; Disney expenditures were down 11.7% to $517.6 million; and News Corp. cut its ad spending by 6.9% to $672.3 million.

The cuts were partly because their movie studios released fewer films in an effort to lower marketing costs. TNS said that General Electric Co., which owns NBC Universal, was the only media firm to boost its advertising budget for the first six months of 2009, raising it by 5.1% to $548.3 million.


Not surprisingly, automotive, financial services, real estate, tourism and retail businesses took a cleaver to their marketing budgets. Even spending to promote basics such as food and candy was down. Oh Henry!

Newspapers, magazines, television and radio all felt the pain of a dismal first half. Newspaper ad spending was off 24.2% compared with the first half of 2008; radio spending plunged 24.6%; television spending (including national network, local station, syndicated and Spanish-language outlets) was off 10%; magazine spending dropped 20.9%; and billboards and other outdoor media saw their ad revenues tumble 15.7%.

Meanwhile, Verizon Communications Inc. surpassed perennial leader Procter & Gamble Co. to become the top advertiser by shelling out $1.19 billion during the first half of the year. Procter & Gamble, which cut its ad spending by 20%, came in second place at $1.18 billion. P&G pared its television ad budgets by a whopping 30% but it spent the same on magazine ads, TNS Media found. The only growing media sectors were Internet display advertising and free circular inserts in newspapers. Internet display advertising increased 6.5% compared with the first half of 2008 while newspaper insert spending climbed 4.6%.

‘The market has been steadily tracking at around 14% declines for several consecutive months and this represents billions of lost revenue,’ said Jon Swallen, senior vice president for research at TNS Media. Swallen said that early data from the current quarter ‘hint at possible improvements for some media due to easy comparisons against distressed levels of year ago expenditures.’

-- Meg James