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Automakers Rev Up Black Friday TV Spend to $161 Million

By Published on .

Credit: Mercedes-Benz via YouTube

Americans looking to escape the inevitable internecine squabbles around the dinner table this Thanksgiving may want to consider sneaking off to watch a little mid-afternoon NFL action. Make a game of it -- whenever a holiday automotive spot airs during one of the endless commercial breaks, take a stiff drink. You'll be unconscious before dessert is served (and, perhaps, in need of medical attention), but you also will have avoided the worst of the prandial bickering.

Yes, the holiday carpocalypse is once again upon us, and like a plump turkey that's been generously packed with stuffing, the airwaves are crammed to bursting with auto ads. Since Nov. 1, no fewer than 27 auto marques have launched creative designed to move the last of the 2016 inventory off the lot, and the various Black Friday and annual incentive-boosted "event" spend is keeping the TV networks fat and happy.

Altogether, an assembly of manufacturers that includes the likes of Ford, Volkswagen, Chrysler and Honda has spent $161.3 million on holiday sales ads since Nov. 1, a figure that represents 40% of the sector's overall TV spend ($407.4 million) in the same period, according to iSpot.tv estimates. As is expected, a good deal of that investment is being targeted to the tube's biggest reach vehicle; per iSpot, some 27%, or $43.3 million, of the holiday auto outlay has been spent on in-game NFL inventory.

Ford thus far has proved to have the deepest pockets, spending $13.7 million on national TV in support of its Black Friday "Year-End Event." Leaning heavily on a single 30-second commercial -- the autumnal "Pumpkin Patch" dangles a $1,000 cash-back promotion if buyers take delivery of a 2016 model on or before Nov. 30 -- the Ford campaign has made deep inroads into the NFL ($3.17 million) and college football ($1.21 million).

Also digging deep is Audi, which thus far has spent $13.3 million on national TV time in support of its annual "Season of Audi Event" push. Like Ford, Audi this month has snapped up a good deal of college football and NFL inventory (its $3.10 million pro football push includes a 30-second buy in this season's top-rated Dallas-Pittsburgh broadcast), but Audi also benefited from a timely MLB buy. The automaker plunked down around $2 million for two spots in Game 6 and Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the latter of which set a quarter-century ratings record.

Other top holiday spenders include: Mercedes-Benz ($12.1 million), Chevrolet ($9.84 million), Volkswagen ($8.57 million), Chrysler ($8.19 million) and Honda ($8.09 million). As is its wont, Toyota generally has held back on Black Friday spend, investing a little north of $1 million as it holds its fire for its annual Toyotathon. Last year, Toyotathon kicked off on Nov. 30, and, according to iSpot, by the time the final ad aired, the automaker had sunk some $29.1 million in national TV time.

On the whole, the Big Four broadcast nets and ESPN tend to get first dibs on all the holiday car cash, although the CW and cable outlets like NFL Network, FS1, Nickelodeon, AMC, FX, TNT, TBS, Discovery Channel, History and Food Network have all landed in at least one automaker's top five.

Among the general-entertainment programs that have managed to command a significant chunk of the holiday spend include "The Walking Dead," "This Is Us," "The Voice," "Grey's Anatomy," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Modern Family." In keeping with the elevated ratings associated with the post-election period, cable news programs like "The Kelly File" and "Hannity" also have seen a surge in holiday car spend.

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