NEW YORK: Adspend in the US was at "lackluster levels" last year, and the numbers for the first quarter of 2007 are unlikely to add sparkle, opines Steven Fredericks, president/ceo of researcher TNS Media Intelligence.

"Core growth rates have slowed further", he warns, revealing Q1 adspend of $34.93 billion (€25.83bn; £17.53bn). The data follow a reining-in of budgets by 0.3% towards the end of 2006 among the biggest names in advertising: Procter & Gamble, General Motors and AT&T.

Of the nineteen media sectors tracked by TNS, just six made headway during the period: online display advertising (up 16.7% to $2.7bn; cable TV (up 6.3% to $3.8bn); Spanish-language TV (up 3.7% to $985.5 million); consumer magazines (up 7.1% to $5.1bn); Spanish-language magazines (up 14.3% to $35.6m); and outdoor (up 2.4% to $882.2m).

Financial services was the surprise winner of the number one spot in advertiser categories, overtaking the usual big spenders, automotive and telecoms.

But there is little cause for celebration, says TNS svp and director of research John Swallen: "It's not that financial companies increased budgets a whole lot; it's that they watched everyone else retreat in the rearview mirror."

The turbulence in the North American automotive industry has had a marked effect on the sector's advertising. US firms cut $200m from budgets, while overseas vehicle manufacturers trimmed $80m.

The disappearance of the auto dollar hit television hardest during Q1. Network TV dropped 7.2% to $6.1bn; spot TV sank 4% to $3.7bn; and syndication TV was down around 6% to $986.8m. Cable, on the other hand, did better on the strength of niche and special interest networks.

Radio advertising was also slightly down as a result of the contraction in automakers' spending. Radio's total ad share slipped to 6.6% from 6.7%.

Newspapers likewise saw their advertising share fall, from 18.8% to 18% during Q1.

Comments Swallen: "It's a steady erosion in newspaper advertising. They're losing money from print faster than they can replace it with the websites. For every dollar lost in print, newspapers are only getting 30 cents back from their websites."

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff