Paid search budgets among US advertisers were 6.4% lower in Q4 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, according to a new report from Kantar Media.
The drop was driven by a decrease in spending among financial, insurance and local service advertisers.
Display investments also decreased 5.9% in Q4, largely thanks to smaller budgets from automotive companies, telecom providers and travel companies.
Looking at the year as a whole, paid search declined 2.8% but display increased 5.5%.
TV continued to be the dominant ad market for Q4, with a 3.1% increase year-on-year. Kantar said this is due to strong pricing for NFL and baseball events, and the launch of the US version of The X Factor.
However the outlook was far less rosy for other traditional media outlets.
Magazines saw a Q4 drop of 4.9% and an annual fall of 0.4%, while newspaper ad revenues fell 3.7%.
As a whole, ad spend during Q4 2011 dropped 1% versus 2010 (the first quarterly decline since the end of 2009) - but annual spend was up 0.8% to $144bn.
Kantar Media Intelligence North America SVP of research Jon Swallen said the resilience of TV spending versus the waning budgets in other traditional media was, as expected, very clear.
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.”