Although the weakening economy has hurt almost all forms of marketing, a new report finds that online marketing was one of the few bright spots last year.

According to the report from TNS Media Intelligence, total advertising expenditures in the U.S. fell 4.1 percent in 2008 which included a 9.2 percent decline during the fourth quarter.

Yet the report finds that online marketing increased by 4.6 percent for the year and 7 percent during the last three months of 2008.

No other area in the group’s findings outpaces the online sector during both the full year and the final quarter.

Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research at the company said it looks as if it will be much of the same for the beginning of this year.

"The ad market at 2008 year end was buffeted by a souring economy, deteriorating consumer confidence and weakening corporate balance sheets," he said. "Preliminary figures from the first quarter of 2009 indicate little change in the health of the overall ad economy as total spending continues to contract sharply."

Although many consider cutting marketing budgets during down economic times, Scott Buresh, CEO of search engine optimization (SEO) firm Medium Blue, says reducing budgets for items like search engine marketing (SEM) could be one of the worst decisions.

In a column for PromotionWorld, Buresh writes that he feels "any marketing that has traditionally worked for a company should not be eliminated during a downturn."