AT&T BUMPS AD ANTE ANOTHER 31%

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When it comes to codes, area or otherwise, there may be a cryptic message in AT&T Corp.'s romance with the number 511.

"Coincidentally" $511.5 million is the media tally for the first three quarters of 1994 accorded the nation's largest advertised brand in this Advertising Age survey of the Top 200 Brands; $511.1 million happens to be AT&T's brand-leading accumulated total for all of 1993.

Just as AT&T has left its full-year '93 spending total in the dust, it has left behind the Top 200, a group stretching from No. 2 Ford at $381.8 million to No. 200 Six Flags at $28.8 million.

Telephone brand spending, encompassing the big three long-distance carriers, five regional companies and No. 172 Cellular One, rose to $1.14 billion for the period, the sixth largest ad category among the 200 Brands. But the category is on track to move into the fourth slot for year-end '94. Five years ago phones were No. 10.

Since the first 200 Brands quarterly study-for full-year 1989-AT&T has outspent all brands in just over half the reporting periods, MCI Communications has risen from No. 102 to No. 8 (in this report) and Sprint Corp. from No. 110 to No. 23.

AT&T has maintained its spending spree since early 1994 by stretching the True theme to its wealth of programs-True USA (disk calling plan), True Rewards (frequent flier points and gifts), and True Voice (tone clarity).

The True campaign has put AT&T on the offensive and seems to have checked the share slide to the more incessantly competitive MCI and Sprint.

But in sheer ad volume the automotive category dominates the 200, amassing $3.47 billion in ad spending from 30 brands, or nearly a quarter of the $15.08 billion spent by the 200.

The 200 account for 38% of all media ad spending for the three quarters, same as the prior-year, according to 11 media monitored by Competitive Media Reporting.

The 200 grew 12.1% in advertising compared with a collective 8.3% growth for all other brands. The 200 typically lead all advertising in growth; however, actual growth figures should be viewed with circumspection. Ad Age adjusted year-to-year movement in four media to account for enhanced coverage by CMR in 1994 not present in 1993.

The '94 data at CMR compared with its '93 coverage reflects a host of new newspaper markets, two more hours a day of TV coverage (beginning at midyear) and five more stations for spot TV, five additional cable networks and heavier monitoring of syndicated TV.

For the 200 and for all brand advertising, AA adjusted newspaper totals for '93 to reflect the 4.5% growth recorded by Newspaper Association of America (for national and retail ads); spot TV to 13.8% growth based on CMR's own unpublished pro forma reading; cable TV to 14.4% by measuring same-network growth, and syndicated TV to 12% based on real growth estimates from CMR and Advertiser Syndicated Television Association (see accompanying media chart). No prior-year adjustments were made to individual brands, however.

Detroit drove auto growth with $1.96 billion from the 16 U.S. brands, up an unadjusted 27%. The 10 Asian makes hit a collective $1.3 billion, up an unadjusted 19.8%.

The food category, the next largest ad category in volume among the 200, was led by a growing cereal sector. That sector contributed $783.9 million, or nearly 40% of the $2.02 billion spent on food by 26 brands.

Nabisco cereals claimed the largest growth among the five cereal brands at an unadjusted 96.2%. Embodied in this Nabisco entry lies an oddity that stretches the branding criteria for this report. AA methodology is to merge multiple products if they carry the same brand name (example: Velveeta cheese, Parkay margarine, Philadelphia cream cheese all fall under the Kraft umbrella brand).

Implicit in the definition is that a multiple-product brand has the same marketer. Not so with Nabisco. The sale last year by RJR Nabisco of its cereals unit to Philip Morris Cos. split ownership of the "Nabisco" brand line, giving AA cause to make explicit the same-marketer designation. Nabisco, an amalgam of cereals, cookies and crackers in past 200 Brands reports, is now splintered into No. 54 Nabisco foods (marketed by RJR Nabisco) and No. 139 Nabisco cereals (marketed by PM).

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