Madison Avenue is not yet breaking out the Krug – but the latest adspend data has sparked a few cautious grins around the water-coolers in adland’s corridors of power.

According to the closely watched half-yearly report from TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, total US advertising expenditure rose year-on-year from $57.7 billion to $61.6 billion (€56.54bn; £39.01bn) during the period January-June 2003, an increase of 6.8%.

Said TNS Media chief executive Steven Fredericks: “Consumers are spending and ad expenditures are finally catching up. The robustness surprised us.”

His optimism was echoed by Euro RSCG MVBMS president John Berg: “A lot of clients are being less conservative with releasing ad budgets. [They] are seeing other clients spending and … are saying ‘we need to be competitive’.”

Among the big advertisers unzipping their wallets were General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Walt Disney, respectively increasing their H1 spend by 11% to $1.27 billion, 31% to $1.26 billion and 19% to $632.5 million.

The TNS data shows that all tracked media posted adspend gains in the first half, save for network television which sagged 0.4% to $10.35 billion. Other sectors still lagging the field include national newspapers, business-to-business magazines and spot TV.

And although a mood of cautious optimism prevails across the industry, there’s always someone to rain on the parade.

Opines Lauren Rich Fine, an advertising haruspex at Merrill Lynch, whose prescience of late has not enjoyed the same predictive accuracy she expects of the companies she tracks: “TNS’ data has been aggressive. We are in an ad recovery. It’s just a muted one.” She remains “cautious” about spending and adheres to her earlier forecast of +3.3% for the current year.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff