ROME: Advertising expenditure fell by more than 4% in Italy during the opening six months of this year, reflecting the difficult financial climate facing the country.

Nielsen, the research firm, reported total revenue levels dropped by 4.2% in the first half of 2011 on an annual basis, reaching just over €4.5bn.

Television recorded a 4.7% decline in ad sales, to around €2.5bn, but the demand witnessed by digital stations proved considerably more resilient than the sector as a whole.

While the downturn in television's fortunes mirrored a wider malaise, it also partly related to challenging comparisons, as the FIFA World Cup, a major adspend driver, started in June 2010.

Elsewhere, online advertising logged a 14.1% increase across the same period, to €300m, although growth slowed to 4.7% in June 2011.

In contrast, daily newspapers were down by 5.1%, including a 5.1% contraction for freesheets, magazines posted a 1.5% slide, and direct mail was off by 0.9%.

By category, the pharma and healthcare sector boosted its outlay by 11.7%, with media and entertainment up 2.2%, personal care logging a 10.1% improvement and automotive up by 2.8%.

Data sourced from Reuters; additional content by Warc staff