Full-year figures from Kantar Media, the research business, show that total advertising expenditures increased just 0.7% in 2014 and finished the year at $141.2bn. At the same time, the top ten advertisers had reduced their adspend by 4.2% to $15.3bn, or just under 11% of the total.
"Large advertisers in particular are the ones that are most aggressively moving budgets into digital, and the cost efficiencies of digital advertising enable many marketers to buy more for less," Jon Swallen, the chief research officer at Kantar Media North America, told the New York Times.
The biggest of them all, Procter & Gamble, also registered the sharpest fall among the top ten, lopping 14.4% off its 2013 total to come in at $2.6bn for the year.
Swallen noted that a majority of the top 1000 advertisers had actually increased their spending over the past calendar year, with that by mid-size companies up 4.6% – "a promising sign for the start of 2015".
In terms of media channels, television performed strongest, growing 5.5% in 2014 as it was boosted by spending around the Winter Olympics and mid-term elections; it also benefitted from higher ad expenditures on sports programming.
The last point was especially evident in Spanish language TV, where a significant part of the 14.7% increase in adspend was attributable to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Cable TV expenditures were also well up on the previous year, increasing 6.8%, helped by spending growth from the motion picture, pharmaceutical, restaurant and telecom categories.
Internet spending was flat, increasing just 0.9%, but Kantar's figures only cover display advertising and not the fast-growing areas of mobile and video.
Print media continued to suffer, with spending down 10% at newspapers, the bulk of the decline coming among local papers (-11.6%) and Spanish language papers (-4.6%); nationals newspapers held up relatively well, with a mere 0.3% decline.
Magazine spending was down 5.1%, with Sunday magazines hardest hit (-15.2%). Radio ad spending declined 3.9%, while outdoor expenditure slipped 0.2%.
Warc's latest International Ad Forecast estimates total US adspend of $167bn in 2014, buoyed by 5.8% growth in TV advertising expenditure and a 15.9% rise in internet adspend (including display, classified, search, email and mobile).
Data sourced from Kantar Media, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff