LONDON: Total advertising expenditure in the UK declined by 16.3% at current prices in the first quarter of this year, to £3.58 billion ($5.9bn; €4.2bn), compared with £4.28bn in first three months of 2008, according to figures from WARC and the Advertising Association.

This decline was the worst since the Advertising Association started measuring adspend levels in the country in 1983, and marked the fourth successive quarterly slide in revenues.

Overall, television ad sales contracted by 14.7% to £813.9m in Q1, compared with £954.1m in the same period last year, and were also down from £998.3m in the final three months of 2008.

Newspaper revenues also fell to £825.4m from £1.1bn in the period from January to March in 2008, with radio off by 22.3% year-on-year, to £105.2m.

Marketing expenditure through outdoor also declined by 19.3%, to £178.4m, with cinema posting a 2.3% drop off, to just £37.7m overall.

By contrast, online registered growth of 1.3% in the first quarter, to £858m, and the medium has now seen ad revenues increase by 11.8% over the last 12 months, to an annual total of £3.4bn.

Within this, however, display expenditure dropped by 10.5%, to £154.4m, at the start of of this year, while classified advertising, including paid-for search, enjoyed an upswing of 4.3%, to £703.6m.

In terms of product categories, the financial sector's outlay was down by 21% on an annual basis, to £307.2m, while automotive spending also declined by 23.5%, to £171.5m.

Entertainment and media was down by just 0.9% to £272.1m, with food marketing budgets falling by 6.4%, to £136.2m, and the toiletries and cosmetics sector cutting back by 8.9%, to £114.6m.

Retail expenditure, on the other hand, grew by 0.9% to £340.2m, with government, charity and education spending also registering a rise of 17.8%, to £212.2m.

Data sourced from WARC/Advertising Association