LONDON: Advertising spend in Western Europe has been trimmed, according to latest data from the WPP Group, as soaring energy prices have drained consumer cash and marketers have cut their overheads.

The UK-headquartered advertising conglomerate says sales have grown less than in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The firm's annual meeting heard from ceo Sir Martin Sorrell that overall revenues, excluding the effects of currency and acquisitions, grew 4.5% in the first five months of the year, down from 4.8% in the first quarter. Sales in the same five month period last year grew 5.2%.

European weakness was offset by the expansion of the Middle-East market, which grew even faster than Eastern Europe.

Sorrell declared that WPP had yet to feel the pressure of a global slowdown – this year would be cushioned by the Beijing Olympics, the Euro 2008 soccer championships and the US presidential election.

However, he warned that 2009 would present more challenges. He told shareholders: "Looking ahead, you will not need me to remind you that commentators are just about unanimous in their belief that the world economy is in for a bumpy ride."

Sorrell added: "It is at times like this that we should be particularly appreciative of the unusual nature of this group. As a group, we are crucially dependent on no single continent, on no single business sector and on no single communications discipline."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff