MILAN: Italian advertising expenditure fell sharply in the first quarter of 2013 with leading businesses anticipating this trend will continue at a slower pace in the second quarter.

Total advertising for the quarter amounted to €1.6bn, an 18.9% drop on the same period in 2012, according to latest figures from Nielsen, the measurement company.

Only two areas escaped declines of this magnitude. Internet advertising rose 2.1% to reach €120m, while outdoor advertising increased 8.4% to €20m.

Otherwise, the figures were bleak. Television advertising, which accounted for over half of all advertising expenditure, fell 19.1% to €906m.

Press advertising suffered most, falling 24.8% compared to a year earlier. Dailies fared worst, down 26.1% to €227m, but periodicals were not much better, slipping 22.3% to €126m.

Radio advertising was down 19.2% to €77m and cinema down 19.9% to €6m.

Nielsen's figures were released as Italian broadcaster Mediaset was reporting a 19% drop in gross advertising sales in Italy in the first quarter and warning that the decline would continue, although at a slower rate.

"The trend is forecast to remain negative, with probably a high single-digit fall," said Luigi Colombo, head of Mediaset's Italian advertising arm Publitalia.

Mediaset's Spanish operations were also under pressure as gross television advertising revenues there declined 13.6% in the first quarter.

The company was cautious about making any long-term predictions, beyond indicating that ad sales could perhaps stabilise in the coming months.

But it argued that "the scarce visibility, uncertainty and economic instability in the two countries do now allow us at present to make reliable forecasts regarding the evolution of advertising sales on a yearly basis".

Data sourced from Bloomberg, Reuters, 4-Traders, Gazzetta del Sud; additional content by Warc staff