Hong Kong's advertising market still faces an uncertain outlook despite 3.51 per cent year-on-year growth in first-half spending, according to media monitoring firm Admango. It said advertising sales in the first six months reached $6.31 billion, up from $6.1 billion a year ago. This took into account an estimated 60 per cent discount offered to advertisers or advertising agencies. Sales, which dropped in April and May due to the Sars outbreak, picked up last month and reached $1.18 billion, compared with $1.12 billion in June last year. The company said it did not take into account that some advertisers were giving a discount of as high as 70 per cent during the Sars outbreak. Given that the market slumped during the outbreak compared with a strong gain last year from the soccer World Cup, Admango director Jennifer Ma said the company believed the first-half figures were still encouraging. However, despite the increase in first-half spending, she said that full-year advertising spending would be lower than last year, due to the weak economy, high unemployment and lack of any major events. The toiletries and household sector was the biggest first-half spender, with its advertising expenditure soaring 35.6 per cent to $601.18 million. It was followed by property with $568.62 million. Hong Kong's largest developer Cheung Kong (Holdings) spent $85.53 million, of which 24.1 per cent went on its luxury project 1 Beacon Hill Road, according to Admango. Sun Hung Kai Properties spent $47.44 million on advertising, with 35.5 per cent going on its Yoho Town project in Yuen Long. 'The property sector will continue to be among the top advertising spenders,' Ms Ma said. Advertising on television contributed about 44 per cent to total first-half spending, 1 per cent down from last year. Industry players expect Television Broadcasts (TVB) to benefit from the loosening of controls over product placement and programme sponsorship and post stronger revenue growth. According to a market source, Emperor Group-backed Matsunichi Communication paid TVB more than $1 million per episode to have the name of its MP3 product shown alongside a prime-time programme. Admango also expects the MTRC to play an important role in the local advertising market. It took 2 per cent of total advertising sales in the first half, while the entire outdoor media market had 3 per cent. 'Spending on the MTRC is recovering,' Ms Ma said 'Advertisers prefer advertising on the rail system because it has a mass and comprehensive coverage.'