Online Ad Spending Merely Stumbles as Other Channels Swoon

ZenithOptimedia has lowered its forecast for online advertising spending in 2009, but the Web remains the only medium where any growth is still expected.

The media buying unit of Publicis now predicts Internet ad spending will grow 8.6 percent this year, down from 20.9 percent in 2008. It believes the Web will account for $54.3 billion, or 12.1 percent of all global ad spending, in 2009, up from $50 billion (10.4 percent) last year.

Despite its weak growth, the outlook for Web ads is positively sunny when compared with the ad industry as a whole. ZenithOptimedia now forecasts global ad spending will decline a whopping 6.9 percent. The picture is even worse in the U.S., where it expects current year spending to contract 8.7 percent.

“We are currently in the middle of a period of steep deterioration in ad expenditure,” noted the report’s authors. “Many are treating advertising as a discretionary expense, and one they find convenient to cut.”

Within the online channel, all ad categories are not created equal. ZenithOptimedia believes search ad spending will grow 9 percent globally this year, while classified ads will surge just 1.8 percent and traditional display ads will contract 1.8 percent.

The Internet is now on track to overtake magazine expenditures this year, and may soon surpass an even larger print category. “Given the speed at which newspaper is shrinking, it might not be too long before it catches up to newspapers as well,” said Jonathan Barnard, head of publications at ZenithOptimedia.

Zach Rodgers contributed.

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