It is odd that, despite all that's going on in the world, something that is so readily dismissed as little more than irritating background fuzz has experienced such rapid, robust growth for so long.
The total spent on advertising worldwide is expected to eclipse $400 billion by next year. That's an increase of more than 20 per cent (and $70 billion) since 2001, a time when the world has been on the receiving end of one of the worst economic downturns in living memory. Not bad for an industry that is said to be out-of-touch, out-of-date and fast running out of ideas.
Of course, its growth prospects beyond 2006 are tough to call, especially as the advertising industry is typically dependent on a number of other things happening before it can flourish. Indeed, in each of the world's major media markets, question-marks dangle in the faces of media owners and agencies as to how to keep (often fragile) growth on a firm footing.
When will France's media wriggle free from the shackles of over-regulation?
How will Japan cope with its ageing population? How can Italy achieve sustainable growth when its government and dominant media are run by the same man? Can genuine editorial independence ever be won in Hu's China? Or, for that matter, Putin's Russia?
Then there's TiVo in the US, the boom and bust rollercoaster of Argentina (where the advertising market halved between 1998 and 2003), Germany's archaic labour laws and the 700 million who live below the poverty line in India. For every green shoot of growth, there's a boot that needs to be lifted.
Lucy Aitken, this report's author, casts an analytical eye over the world's most important markets, sizes up their social, political and economic concerns, singles out the big media stories (will digital terrestrial TV take off in France? Will the Big Brother creator, John de Mol, succeed with his latest wheeze in Holland?) and asks how advertising can keep growing (or in Germany's case, start growing).
Figures and forecasts from ZenithOptimedia also show us how adspend is shared between media and how this split has changed, and is likely to change, over time. The Netherlands is one of the report's oddballs, a rare market where magazines enjoy a bigger share of spend than television.
ZenithOptimedia's data also tells us where advertising is growing fastest.
Central European and Asian countries are the stars of the top 20 with Romania, Indonesia and Turkey claiming the top spots. China, already the world's seventh-biggest market, is expected to leapfrog the biggest European markets this year and is gaining on second-place Japan.
This report is for the growing band of you who run international accounts or whose companies are launching overseas - or simply for the smart-arse who wants to brush up on his or her media trivia (did you know that two-thirds of Saudi's online population are women? Or that Sweden's biggest TV ratings winner is Donald Duck?). We also fill you in on who you should know, the car you should drive, the beer you should drink and what you should never, ever say when you're fresh off the plane in Moscow, Madrid or Munich.