WPP's Kantar: Search, Display Plummet In Q4, Contribute To General Ad Decline

WPP's Kantar Media unit estimates that measured paid search and online display ad spending plummeted during the fourth quarter, contributing to an overall decline in U.S. ad spending during the quarter and contributing to weaker-than-expected full-year results for the ad industry.

It was a squeaker, Kantar estimates that total ad spending grew 0.8% in 2011, despite a 1.0% decline during the fourth quarter -- the first to go negative since the end of 2009.

“Since reaching a post-recession peak in the third quarter of 2010, advertising growth rates have slowed sequentially for five consecutive quarters,” reads the analysis by Kantar Senior Vice President-Research Jon Swallen.

“The contrast of resilient TV spending and waning budget allocations to other traditional media was plainly evident at the end of 2011,” Swallen stated, adding: “Some mature digital media formats were also touched by the year-end tide of reduced spending. Whether this is an isolated occurrence or an early sign of digital dollars moving more quickly towards emerging and unmeasured digital platforms bears watching as 2012 unfolds.”



Surprisingly, Kantar estimates that ad expenditures for measured digital media declined during the fourth quarter, with paid-search budgets dropping 6.4% from year-earlier volume, as financial, insurance and local service advertisers cut back on search. Online display ad spending decreased 5.9%, “dragged down by smaller budgets from auto manufacturers, telecom providers and travel companies,” Kantar reported, estimating that full-year display nonetheless grew 5.5%, but full-year search declined 2.8% during 2011.

Percent Change in Measured Ad Spending














4th Quarter





• Media Type

2011 vs. 2010

2011 vs. 2010










• Paid Search









• Display


















Source: Kantar Media

Internet search (Google search engine, excluding mobile); Internet display (1,911 sites monitored at least one year);Internet search figures reflect paid activity on Google and are compiled from monthly data on Top 20,000 subdomains. Mobile search spending is not included.

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