Payments industry businesses increased their ad spending during the first quarter despite the weak economy, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Of the top 10 spenders, six spent more in the first three months of this year than in the corresponding period a year ago. One major issuer, however, essentially stopped spending on ads during the quarter, TNS says. Citigroup's spending, which rose 117%, increased the most among the top ad spenders, to $66.2 million from $30.5 million. The biggest decrease came at Washington Mutual, which spent just $27,700, down 99.7% from $10.2 million a year earlier. A Washington Mutual spokesperson questioned the accuracy of the TNS Media data but would provide no other figures. American Express Co.'s spending declined more than 25%, to $61.9 million from $83.6 million. Besides Citi, the top payments industry businesses that increased their spending were Bank of America Corp., Capital One Financial Corp., HSBC Bank USA N.A., Discover Financial Services and Visa Inc. Besides AmEx and WaMu, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and MasterCard Worldwide spent less during the quarter. The ailing economy may not cause every issuer to decrease ad spending, but it is instilling caution, one observer says. "There's less of an appetite to try new things," says Megan Bramlette, managing associate at Auriemma Consulting Group, a Westbury, N.Y.-based consultancy. "We had been encouraged to try anything and everything new and exciting, but now the [research-and-development] shops have been shut down. They're sticking to the tried and true–the things we know customers like."

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