Reviewing the 47 years Advertising Age magazine has produced its 100 Leading National Advertisers report, not since that other recession year of 1991, when the nation's top advertisers recorded a 3.9% decline in ad spending, has negative ad growth been recorded.
Recession and war
Both years were scarred by the dual theme of recession and war: Recession-plagued 1991 was marked by the Persian Gulf War; the war on terrorism began in 2001, also a year of recession. The overall decline by the 100 Leaders in 1991 was marked by reductions in total advertising by 59 of the companies; 46 did so in 2001, not unusual given that aggregate sales of the top 100 advanced only 2.7% from the previous year.
The biggest ad decline by volume in 2001 came from No. 1 advertiser General Motors Corp. The automaker cut U.S. ad spending by $571 million to $3.37 billion, a tally down 14.5%. All vehicle megabrands at GM met with double-digit media declines except for Chevrolet, down only 4.9%.
Runner-up Procter & Gamble Co. also slipped in ad spending, by 2.8%, to $2.54 billion. The largely personal-care advertiser actually boosted the media portion of its ad budget by 2.6% in supporting 45 megabrands with $10 million-plus each in media expenditures-the most extensive brand play by any leader.
There were 529 brands supported by the 100 Leaders with at least $10 million in media, and the most supported of them all was the Verizon telecommunications megabrand on which No. 13 Verizon Communications spent $824.4 million in media, up 51.9%.
Dillard's joins the club
Price of entry to the top 100 this go-round was $285.4 million in advertising by No. 100 Dillard's department stores, up from $283.1 million in 2000 by Mazda Motor Corp., a list casualty after a spending decline of 13.9%.
The top 100 as usual proved more dedicated to at least maintenance-level spending in 2001. Their 1.3% decline in all forms of advertising bettered the 6.5% drop by all advertisers, the value of the latter placed at $231.29 billion, said Robert J. Coen, senior vice president and director of forecasting at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann.
The 100 Leaders claimed 39.4% of total U.S. media expenditures in 2001 vs. 38.3% in 2000. Their media outlays hit $42.99 billion, down 5.2%, vs. $118.45 billion for all advertisers, down 7.8%, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.
Unmeasured media up
Unmeasured forms of advertising and marketing -- a cornucopia that includes direct marketing, sales promotion, telemarketing and event marketing, to name a few -- rose 3.6% to $37.95 billion for these elite 100, thus appropriating the marketing wisdom that calls for less brand-building through media when a cost-conscious mentality pervades.
There are signs of a turnaround in 2002, albeit for marginal ad growth. Several media kingpins show strong gains in the first quarter of this year: Newspapers rose 9.3% and network TV 6.6%, according to CMR.
Evidence, though somewhat thin, of the 100 Leaders pushing up spending levels is in the media pudding in the first quarter of this year. The top 10 Leaders in this report, a group accounting for 30% of the media total of the 100 and 11.8% of all advertiser measured media in 2001, raised their collective consumer media 1.1%. That's a start.