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Top 100's Ad-Spend Growth Grinds to Halt

LNA Report: Budgets Eke Out 1.7% Rise; P&G Breaks the $5B Barrier

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- The Top 100 U.S. advertisers last year increased ad spending by just 1.7%, while measured media spending rose a negligible 0.3% for major marketers -- the most sluggish growth since the 2001 recession.

And while estimated spending in unmeasured disciplines -- largely marketing services such as promotion and direct marketing -- did better, it still increased only 3.6%, well below the typical growth seen in recent years.

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The 100 Leading National Advertisers report details overall ad spending as well as spending by medium and brand. Ad Age's new Marketer Trees 2008 database offers profiles of the top 100, listing agency assignments, executives, spending and brands.

Notwithstanding Procter & Gamble Co., which hit a milestone by becoming the first advertiser to break the $5 billion mark on U.S. spending, the point to take away from Ad Age's 100 Leading National Advertisers report is clear: Big marketers, facing a weakening economy and pressure to control costs, clamped down on spending. In fact, ad spending for these top-tier marketers collectively failed to keep pace in 2007 with real gross domestic product (up 2.2%) or with inflation (up 2.8%).

The trend also shows a continued shift away from media measured by ad tracker TNS Media Intelligence -- such as print and TV -- which accounted for 58.1% of top marketers' U.S. ad spending, down from 58.9% in 2006, according to the report, which is Ad Age's 53rd annual.

The rest of spending came from unmeasured disciplines, primarily marketing services such as direct marketing, promotion and digital communications (including unmeasured forms of internet media such as paid search).

Unmeasured also vulnerable
But while marketers continued to migrate toward unmeasured disciplines, last year's slow growth shows that unmeasured fields aren't immune from advertisers' efforts to tighten spending.

Internet proved a bright spot. Measured spending on internet display advertising last year surged 33% for the 100 LNA, according to Ad Age DataCenter's analysis of data from TNS Media Intelligence. Web display ads -- banner ads and the like -- accounted for 6.8% of LNA measured spending in 2007, up from 5.1% in 2006 (and more than double 2003's 3%).

Internet gains, however, couldn't make up for some big losses in old media. The biggest loser: newspapers, where the LNA slashed measured spending 8.5%. The top 100 also trimmed TV spending 1.2%, according to Ad Age's analysis of TNS data.

Put another way, these top-tier marketers increased measured internet spending by $1 billion; slashed newspaper spending by $674 million; and cut TV budgets by $406 million.

The top 100 advertisers last year accounted for 41% of U.S. measured-media advertising. Their share varies by medium: The companies placed 71% of broadcast-network TV advertising and half of cable-network ads but only 37% of internet display advertising.

Mostly increases
In all, 58 of the 100 LNA companies boosted combined measured and unmeasured U.S. ad spending in 2007.

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Source: Ad Age DataCenter analysis of TNS Media Intelligence data
The top advertiser: P&G, which increased U.S. spending by 7.1% to a record-breaking $5.2 billion, according to Ad Age estimates. That makes P&G the first marketer to spend more than $5 billion a year on U.S. advertising. P&G has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in 51 of the 53 years Ad Age has published the LNA report.

General Motor Corp.'s estimated U.S. ad spending plunged 8.7% to $3 billion, moving GM down a step to No. 4 in the LNA ranking. GM was the largest spender as recently as 2004.

GM had a lot of company in cutting ads: Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai all reduced U.S. advertising, according to Ad Age's analysis.

Overall automotive spending slumped 6.4% to $18.5 billion (as car and light-truck sales fell 2.5%). That moved the auto category down a notch: Automotive is now the second-largest ad category, behind retail ($18.7 billion).

Telecom questions
The telecom category is a distant No. 3 ($10.9 billion) -- but home to the nation's three most-advertised consumer brands: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

Every year since 2001, either AT&T or Verizon has been the biggest-spending brand.

The U.S. telecom market is maturing, and the main wave of industry consolidation and rebranding campaigns is complete. That raises questions about whether the cacophony of wireless and other telecom advertising will continue at its current level.

But AT&T and Verizon are the only $2 billion U.S. ad brands, with measured spending nearly double that of the third-most-advertised brand. Even if they turn down the volume, those two megaphones are likely to remain the two biggest megabrands.
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