The top 10 advertisers cut ad budgets by 15 percent last year, sending total advertising down 2.6 percent to $136.8 billion in 2008, according to preliminary figures released Friday (March 13) by Nielsen's Monitor-Plus ad tracking service.

Of the 19 media segments reported by Monitor-Plus, only two, Hispanic cable TV and cable TV posted growth, up 9.6 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively. Cable TV was the highest revenue-generating medium with $26.6 billion.

Even the Internet (display ads), typically the fastest-growing medium, took a hit, down 6.4 percent last year.

Newspapers suffered the most. National newspapers were down 9.6 percent. Local newspapers dropped 10.2 percent and local Sunday supplements had the biggest drop, down 11 percent.

Procter & Gamble was the nation's top ad spender last year, but like all the top 10 advertisers, P&G drastically cut its budget. The packaged-goods company spent 19.3 percent less in 2008.

The automotive companies remain in the top 10, but all cut budgets. Cerberus Capital Management (Chrysler) made the deepest cut, spending 31.2 percent less last year. Ford Motor Co. slashed its budget by 28.5 percent. General Motors' spending was down 14.9 percent.

Foreign automakers also trimmed ad spending, Toyota by 6.6 percent and Honda by 2.8 percent.

Also making drastic reductions, Time Warner reduced its spending by 23.7 percent.

The only two advertising categories of advertisers to increase spending last year were quick-service restaurants, up 3.8 percent; and, as anyone who has watched TV knows, direct-response products, up 9.2 percent.

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