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US advertising spending was measured at $56.9 billion in the first half of 2009, a decline of 15.4% -? or $10.3 billion – compared with first two quarters of 2008, according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

Cable TV ad spending was the only medium to show growth through the first six months of the year (+1.5%) despite the fact that Nielsen reported cable ad spending was down 2.7% through Q1.

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Nielsen found that cable TV Services picked up its ad spending 62% to almost $500 million, a direct result of ad buys this year leading up to June’s DTV transition. Earlier this year, Nielsen reported that only 6% of households in the US were not ready for digital TV.

Spanish-language cable TV also saw ad spending tick up 0.6%, corresponding with overall growth in the Hispanic TV market.

The rest of Nielsen’s measured media showed year-to-year declines, ranging from internet (-1.0%) to local sunday supplements (-45.7%). African-American TV (a subset of network, cable, syndicated, and local), continues to grow, increasing 14.3% through the first six months of 2009.

Cars & Fast Food Top Category Spending

Automotive ad spending once again emerged as the largest product category, despite cutting back 31%, or $1.68 billion, Nielsen reported.? Local auto dealerships also cut back spending significantly, declining 26.2% in H109.

Quick-service restaurants continued thriving through the economic downturn and showed added spending from many companies, including McDonalds, Sonic, Domino’s Pizza, and Papa John’s. The industry placed second among all industries with an ad spend of $2.2 billion.

Pharmaceutical, wireless phone service and motion-picture advertising rounded out the top categories in terms of dollars spent.

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Direct Response, Smartphones Top Gainers

In terms of category gainers in the top-10 industries, direct-response products, grew the most (6.7%), mostly because of increased advertising for products marketed by Idea Village, AllStar Products, and Dish Direct.

Outside the top 10, there was significant growth among many major product categories. Multi-function mobile phones (i.e smartphones, PDAs, etc.) enjoyed the highest percentage change among all categories that spent a minimum of $200 million in the first half of 2009.

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Promotion of Apple’s updated iPhone models and TMobile’s Sidekick led the category’s 104% surge in spending.

“While some of the larger categories have cut back spending, we see others that continue to raise the ante on their media investments,” said Annie Touliatos, VP for Nielsen’s advertising information services. “We’re not just seeing a rise in spending for recession-friendly products like fast-food restaurants. We’re seeing a lot more promotion of technological innovations like smartphones, computer software, and consumer-driven web sites. These advertisers see potential for their products despite our stressed economy and are leveraging advertising to drive their success.”

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