First quarter sees a drop in adspend

A depressed economy and the build-up to the war in Iraq kept the brakes on adspend in the UK during the first quarter of 2003, according to new figures from the Advertising Association.

Ad expenditure totalled £3,348 million, representing a rise of 1.5 per cent over the same period a year earlier but a 1.5 per cent drop in real terms after adjusting for inflation.

The only sectors to buck the trend were outdoor and direct mail, which saw rises of 13.3 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

All other media saw ad revenue remain virtually stalled. TV was down 1.3 per cent, radio 1 per cent and national newspapers 5.3 per cent. Business magazines remain particularly hard hit with a drop of 6.1 per cent.

"It's clear that advertisers are still sitting on their money and waiting to see which way things will bounce," Andrew Brown, the AA's director-general, said. "There's little sign that the corner has been turned. Our best hope is that we've reached the bottom of Sir Martin Sorrell's bathtub."

Some observers believe the success of outdoor media is down to successful innovation, self-promotion and its ability to give advertisers high impact without demanding long-term commitment.

But there is concern that direct mail's success may be due in large part to the amount of indiscriminate and untargeted items being sent.

Hamish Pringle, the IPA director-general, said: "The sector is becoming increasingly commoditised."