New figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers have shown that spending on online ads went up by 21 per cent in the first half of 2008.

The rise bucked the overall 0.7 per cent decline in total ad spending in the UK for the period – which would have been 4.6 per cent if online advertising had not figured in the statistics.

Guy Phillipson, IAB chief executive, predicted that internet spending could soar past £3.2 billion by the end of 2008, Reuters reports.

According to the IAB’s figures, spending on search marketing rose by 28 per cent in the first six months of the year, while display ad spending experienced a 16.3 per cent increase.

"Online is not immune from the economic downturn, but while other sectors see falls in expenditure the internet is still experiencing an incredible increase and is propping up the entire advertising market," Mr Phillipson said.

Next year is likely to see online spending rise by nearly 19 per cent in the UK, according to a recently published forecast by media firm Carat.

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