Cable TV Only Ad Category That Grew In 2008: Nielsen

Cable television advertising grew 7.8% in 2008 to reach $26.6 billion in sales, representing the only category of U.S. advertising that showed growth for the year, according to preliminary figures Nielsen released Friday.

Cable, also the highest revenue-generating medium, was the sole bright spot in the otherwise deteriorating market for advertising. Overall U.S. ad expenditures declined almost $3.7 billion, or 2.6%, to a total spend of $136.8 billion in 2008, Nielsen said.

"Given the state of the U.S. economy, a decline in ad spending was expected, but it's not as bad as it could have been," said Annie Touliatos, vice president of Nielsen's ad-tracking service, in a statement. She noted that the 2008 national elections and the Summer Olympics in Beijing were two major events that had "a tremendous impact on advertising, especially on TV buys."

Broadcast TV advertising spending dropped 3.5%, but all told television continued to be the dominant medium for advertisers, garnering 60% of all ad dollars spent (across network, cable, Hispanic and spot TV categories).

Hispanic cable TV ad spend was up even higher than the cable average, growing 9.6% in 2008. That pushed total Spanish-language TV advertising -- network and cable combined -- up 0.8% for the year, while African-American TV fell 3.4%.

Internet advertising dropped 6.4%, and print media continued its downward spiral as newspapers and magazines were the hardest-hit of all sectors. Local and national newspaper ad spends declined 10.2% and 9.6%, respectively; while national magazines fell 7.6% and local magazines dropped 3.7%.

Spending by the 10 biggest U.S. advertisers dropped 15%, to $15.5 billion in 2008. Procter & Gamble maintained No. 1 ranking despite cutting its ad budget 19% for the year.

The automotive industry slashed spending by almost $1.8 billion, or 15.5% compared with 2007, with Chrysler, Ford and GM cutting ad spending 31%, 29% and 15%, respectively.

Pharmaceuticals also cut back spending significantly, declining 18% compared with 2007. Quick-service restaurants was the only category to increase spending, up 3.8% in 2008.

Nielsen's estimated year-to-year change in ad sales by media category: