Display Ad Spending Declined with Other Channels in 2008

Advertising expenditures in most categories were dragged down by the economic slowdown in 2008, and online was no different. According to Nielsen’s full-year numbers, U.S. display ad expenditures for the year were 6.4 percent below 2007 levels.

Online spending saw declines across several verticals, though some recovered toward the fourth quarter. “If you take a look at the changes between Q3 and Q4 last year, what we saw were weaknesses you’d expect,” said Jon Gibs, director, media analytics at Nielsen Online. “We saw weaknesses in public services; B2B spending is down as well. These were not areas that were particularly surprising.”

Also not surprisingly, financial services companies also cut their online spending. But Nielsen found the sector is still the largest category for display ad buying, suggesting “there’s a lot of room for contraction,” according to Gibs. “Financial services were looking to acquire customers for other types of credit-based products,” he said. “Since banks have not been aggressively moving in that area, those types of advertisements are starting to dry up.”

The holiday season brought cyclical spending from retail and consumer package goods sectors. Compared with the year-ago period, Q4 spending on hardware and electronics declined just over 30 percent; entertainment increased about 20 percent; travel expenditures spiked about 30 percent; and spending on consumer package goods went up roughly 11 percent.

Across all categories, U.S. ad spending declined 2.6 percent compared to 2007. Advertisers spent an estimated $136.8 billion in 2008, down $3.7 billion from the year before. That figure accounts for all advertising channels, including Hispanic cable TV and Cable TV, which grew 9.6 percent and 7.8 percent respectively. All other categories suffered declines in spending, including network radio, broadcast network TV, outdoor, national newspapers, local newspapers, and local Sunday supplements.

While it may have lost some budget favor, online display advertising grew in other ways last year. Between the third and fourth quarter Nielsen measured about 10 percent growth in non-standard dimensions or non-IAB ads. Gibs said publishers appreciate the importance of IAB standards, but to set themselves apart from ad networks they have increasingly offered special executions for ad placements. Other ad types that have seen growth are wide skyscrapers and ad formats with interesting dimensions. Flash ads experienced 4 percent growth on a year-over-year basis.

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