The nation's 100 biggest advertisers boosted 2011 total U.S. ad spending by 4.8%. But you wouldn't know spending was on the rise if you looked only at last year's measured media.
Measured spending for the top 100 actually slipped 0.2%. A double-digit measured-media gain for internet display spending and a small increase in TV did not make up for losses in newspapers, magazines and radio.
So where's the money going? Into unmeasured disciplines—a vast pool that includes various digital plays (search marketing, online video and some forms of social media), promotion and direct marketing. The appeal is clear: Marketers are putting money into disciplines that directly connect them with targeted consumers.
Advertisers are reshaping the media pie. Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia expects the internet to surpass newspapers this year as the nation's second-largest advertising medium, behind TV. By ZenithOptimedia's tally, the internet was the fifth-largest ad medium until 2009, when it powered past magazines and radio into the No. 3 spot.
Nearly three-fourths of ZenithOptimedia's internet breakout comes from what Ad Age currently counts as unmeasured spending (including paid search, online video and mobile ads); the rest comes from measured disciplines (display advertising, including display ads on social-media sites).
Fortunes of unmeasured and measured disciplines have diverged since the Great Recession ended and not-so-great recovery began in June 2009.
The top 100 U.S. advertisers in 2010 increased unmeasured spending by 12.6% and measured spending by 6.3%, resulting in an 8.8% rebound in total ad spending.
The 100 Leading National Advertisers' unmeasured spending jumped 11.8% in 2011 while measured media eased 0.2%, resulting in an overall increase of 4.8%. That slower growth shows how major marketers have kept a check on ad spending in this plodding economic recovery.
Measured media's share of LNA spending dropped to 55.8% in 2011 from 58.6% in 2010.
The tug of war between measured and unmeasured disciplines is hardly new. Since launching the 100 LNA report in 1956, Ad Age has used the term "unmeasured" to quantify ad and promotion spending distinct from media types -- such as TV, print and (in recent decades) internet display -- that are measured by tracking services.
The shift in 2011 was widespread: 100 Leading National Advertisers in all but two major industry categories reduced the portion of 2011 spending that went to measured media, according to Ad Age DataCenter's analysis. (The two exceptions were financial services and restaurants, where measured media scored a bigger slice of the pie.)
Case in point: Kohl's Corp., the department-store retailer, disclosed gross advertising costs rose 10.4% to $1.123 billion in 2011. Kohl's 2011 measured-media ad spending declined 2.5% to $331.3 million, according to WPP's Kantar Media. Ad Age defines the difference as unmeasured spending: $791.7 million, up 16.9%.
To be sure, marketers still rely on measured media to build brands and promote products. Apple's U.S. measured spending surged 82%.
The 100 LNA accounted for 44% of Kantar Media's 2011 U.S. measured-media spending.
Among the 100 largest advertisers, total 2011 U.S. spending (measured media plus unmeasured spending) increased in all but three major industries, according to Ad Age DataCenter's spending analysis.
Marketers of cleaning products reduced total ad spending by 3.3%. The LNA's 10 food companies trimmed spending by 1.5%.
Two major industries saw double-digit increases in total U.S. ad spending: automotive, up 16.1%, and financial services, up 11.2%.
During the 2007-2009 recession, automotive and financial-services imploded as industries and ad categories. But the two industries have rebounded sharply, scoring double-digit ad spending increases in both 2010 and 2011.
Fiat's Chrysler Group boosted U.S. measured-media spending by 48%; Chrysler's stated worldwide ad spending jumped 49%.
Estimated total U.S. ad spending for JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest financial advertiser, rose 22 %. JPMorgan Chase's stated worldwide marketing costs in 2011 were 77% above the company's recession-period low (2009).
Among the 100 LNA, about two-thirds of marketers increased U.S. spending in 2011, with 32 cutting spending, according to Ad Age DataCenter's analysis.
What about 2012? Kantar Media last week reported some sign of a modest rebound in measured-media spending. Overall U.S. measured spending increased 2.6% in the first quarter, the best quarterly growth since second-quarter 2011.
Kantar Media's top 100 marketers increased first-quarter 2012 spending by 3.4%, vs. a 0.2% spending decline in full-year 2011.
ZenithOptimedia forecasts total U.S. spending for major media and marketing services will grow 3.2% in 2012 and another 3.2% in 2013, up from 2011's tepid 1.8% growth. That hardly signals a boom. But it's better than a bust.