U.S. Ad Market Down 9% in 2009, Nielsen Says

Two-percent drop in the fourth quarter was actually an improvement

Last Updated: February 24, 2010 @ 3:32 PM

The U.S. advertising sales market is getting better… but it still sucks.

According to figures released by The Nielsen Company Wednesday, ad spending actually perked up enough in the fourth quarter — it was only down 2 percent! — so that the total yearly decline was 9 percent, down to about $117 billion spent on all U.S. media.

Spending had been down a whopping 15.4 percent through the first six months of 2009 and 11.5 percent through the first three quarters of the year.

“Fourth quarter ad spending was down just two percent year-over-year, and that helped soften the full-year decline,” said Terrie Brennan, senior VP for new business development at The Nielsen Company. “In fact, most of the top advertisers showed increased spending late in the year. These are encouraging signs for an ad market that’s still trying to stop the bleeding.”

According to Nielsen, Spanish-language cable television led all media sectors in terms of growth, managing somehow to expand its ad base by over 32 percent amid the worst economic climate since the Herbert Hoover Administration.

In fact, the broader cable TV sector did OK, growing 14.8 percent. The Internet, meanwhile, was basically flat, expanding 0.1 percent.

As expected, the automotive sector was the hardest hit decliner among ad buyers, spending 23 percent less than it did in 2008. Wireless telephone services also manifested a significant 8.2 percent drop in their spending.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry led all spending sectors in terms of expenditure growth, increasing its overall media spend by 2.8 percent.