Nielsen's Global AdView Pulse, based on advertising expenditure reports in more than 27 markets across Europe, Asia, North America and Africa, highlights that total spend dropped 1.6% last year compared to 2008.
However, as the year progressed, there were "significant signs of improvement", according to the findings, with the last quarter achieving growth of 4.5%, led by Asia Pacific (+12.0%) and Europe (+2.6%).
Ben van der Werf, managing director of Nielsen Global AdView, said the quarterly trend could be taken as "a good sign of things to come this year", but cautioned that the growth was set against the weak last six months of 2008, when economies were hit by the financial crisis.
Globally, television benefited the most from the gradual recovery, followed by advertising gains made by radio. Print had the worst of the four major media types, with magazines taking the biggest hit.
In Europe, radio was the only traditional media to record any growth in advertising, up 1.9%. Spend for TV dropped 2.8% and newspapers 5%, while magazines plummeted 14.7%.
Though not included in Nielsen's global trends, the internet was the only media type to report increases in ad revenues in the majority of the countries tracked.
Werf provided the caveat: "...having to react to the loss of advertising revenue, many media owners started applying much more aggressive discount policies, which may not always be reflected in the trends reported at rate-card prices."
Another interesting trend to emerge from Nielsen's Global AdView is how different media performed in different parts of the world.
Asia Pacific inverted the downturn quite early in the year and, since quarter two, has been the only region to show growth compared to 2008 (+6.6%).
Europe, which is still below the levels of the previous year (-4.9%), showed improvement in the second half of the year and moved to the positive side of the scale in the last quarter of the year.
North America experienced the largest percentage drops versus 2008 (-9.4%) and, although the percentage decrease is more contained in the last quarter, the amount of spend is still yet to match that of 2008.
With the economic crisis impacting most industries, ad budgets were cut throughout the year, but three of the 11 reported macro-sectors still spent more than they did in 2008.
Globally, the three best-performing sectors were FMCG (+10.6%), Healthcare (+6.1%) and distribution channels (+4.2%).
Together, they partially offset double-digit drops in adspend for automotive (-15.1%), clothing and accessories (-11.6%), and financial (-11.4%).