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* U.S. ad expenditures up for first time since 2008
* Biggest increase in ad spending since 2006
NEW YORK, May 26 (Reuters) - New data released on Wednesday showed U.S. advertising spending rose 5.1 percent in the first quarter, marking the first jump in two years and adding to the signs that marketing budgets have finally begun to recover.
Kantar Media, once of the most closely watched tracking firms, reported that advertising expenditures climbed to $31.3 billion in the first three months of the year.
The report showed that 13 of 19 media types benefited from higher spending, led by television and radio, two areas that were hard hit by the downturn. It also said the 5.1 percent increase from the same period in the previous year is the largest rise in a single quarter since 2006.
"With the economy turning from recession towards growth, marketers appear to be more confident about a pickup in consumer activity and have increased ad budgets to support their brands," Jon Swallen, senior vice president for research at Kantar Media, a unit of WPP (WPP.L), said in a statement.
Procter & Gamble Co. (PG.N) ended the quarter at the top spending, increasing its budget 17.7 percent to $772.6 million. It was followed by AT&T Inc. (T.N), which spent $576.4 million, up 26.7 percent from the prior year.
Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N) reported the biggest year-on-year increasing, boosting its budget by 46.2 percent as it campaigned heavily behind Lipitor.
Reporting by Paul Thomasch