AA figures show rising adspend during 2003

Hopes of better times ahead for Britain's recession-battered ad industry have risen on the back of new figures showing a surge in spending at the end of last year.

Statistics published this week by the Advertising Association reveal that adspend in the UK rose by 2.5 per cent to £17.2 billion in 2003.

Although this was the equivalent of a 0.4 per cent decline in real terms, industry leaders are cheered by the fact that the strongest growth took place during the final quarter of the year.

The 3 per cent figure recorded for that period is the most significant rise for a long time.

"I don't want to overclaim, but these figures do give me cause for optimism," Andrew Brown, the AA's director- general, said.

The fourth-quarter surge was most apparent in the outdoor and radio sectors. Outdoor advertising posted an overall 10.4 per cent increase to £901 million, while radio saw a 6.8 per cent increase to £582 million, before accounting for inflation.

Adspend in regional papers and directories grew by 3.2 per cent and 5 per cent respectively and by 0.2 per cent and 2 per cent in real terms.

Meanwhile, TV spending was up by 1 per cent to £4,374 million in nominal terms, but experienced a fall of 1.9 per cent in real terms.

However, cinema's performance ran counter to the trend, with the sector's rapid growth in recent years having gone into reverse with adspend falling from £180 million to £173 million. Industry observers blame the drop on the fact that the sector is heavily dependent on a regular supply of high-quality films for its success.

Brown said the figures reflected the chancellor's belief in the underlying strength of the UK economy and the fact that an increasingly buoyant US market was being followed by pick-ups in France, Germany and even Japan.

But he warned that an outbreak of terrorist attacks could still throw the process into reverse.

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