Ad Spending Soars in Third Quarter on Olympics and Elections

Games and Campaigns Help Some Media Much More Than Others

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Marketers spent $34.5 billion on U.S. advertising in the third quarter of the year, 7.1% higher than the third quarter last year on the strength of Olympics and campaign advertising, Kantar Media said Monday.

Total ad spending for the first nine months of the year increased 3.8% from the equivalent period a year earlier to $101.3 billion, according to Kantar.

Growth in ad spending had been slowing, reaching just 0.9% in the second quarter, compared with the second quarter of 2011. Spending in the first half had increased 1.9% from the first half last year. So even though the Olympics and the elections provide only a temporary boost, and help certain media much more than others, they are more than welcome. Kantar also said that underlying spending at least looks relatively steady.

"Political campaigns and the Summer Olympics delivered their expected bonanza in the third quarter, adding roughly $1.8 billion of incremental spending to the marketplace," said Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media North America, in a statement accompanying the spending. "Looking beyond these special events and focusing on indicators of core health, our data show that more than 60 percent of the Top 1000 advertisers increased their budgets year-over-year. This proportion has been stable for several quarters and indicates marketers are holding the course."

TV benefited the most by far from the Olympics and election season. Ad spending increased 29.9% from the third quarter of 2011 for broadcast TV, 19.8% for spot TV, 17.8% for Spanish-language TV, 9.3% for national syndicated programming and 2.9% for cable, Kantar said.

Radio also gained, although its apparent year-over-year increase was inflated by the addition of more radio programming to Kantar's monitoring, the company said.

Online display advertising fell 4.3% in the third quarter, "dragged down," Kantar said, "by weaker results from mid-size web sites."

Most print media was not well suited to capitalize on the Olympics or election advertising. Ad spending increased 0.8% from the quarter a year earlier for local newspapers, 3.5% for local magazines, 5.2% for Spanish-language newspapers and 20.8% for Spanish-language magazines, but fell 3.2% in consumer magazines and 17.2% in national newspapers. Even the slim 0.8% increase for local newspapers was entirely due to having an extra Sunday in the quarter this year, according to Kantar; without that , spending would have slipped 3%.

Berkshire Hathaway joined the ranks of the ten largest advertisers in the third quarter on the strength of a major Olympics sponsorship, good for fifth place and a 26.6% hike from the quarter a year earlier. Procter & Gamble increased its outlay 4.7% to $770.9 million. The biggest increase belonged to Toyota Motor, which increased ad spending 41.8% to $319.9 million; its operations last year were limited by after-effects of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake. General Motors increased ad spending 24.6% to $471.8 million, partly in support of new model introductions from Cadillac.

Retail, the biggest category in the quarter, grew 8.1% from the quarter a year earlier. Auto, at No. 2, increased 20.7%. Among the biggest ad categories, the biggest decline in the third quarter belonged to financial services, which fell a modest 2.3%, according to Kantar.

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