THE TOP 200 BRANDS;NO. 1 AT&T PROVES AN EASY TARGET

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Hot buttons: Chevy

for cars; Mentadent

in toothpaste; Aleve in

analgesics; and Best Buy

in consumer electronics

The grip ad expenditures have on market share grew visibly tighter in first-half 1995, according to Advertising Age's Top 200 megabrands report.

The quarterly report once again found AT&T ensconced at the top at $359.4 million in media spending, off 1.5% the prior year. The 200 tapered to CBS-TV network at $20.2 million.

AT&T spending has been slipping the last two quarters from '94 levels as MCI and Sprint boosted their outlays by 20.2% and 8%, respectively. Since '84 these two have chipped off 17% and 9% shares from the AT&T monolith, now at 57%. The Baby Bells and GTE have taken another 17%.

Media spending is just one of a number of factors in share building, yet it serves as a key indicator of share movement, particularly in established markets like automotive, pain relievers, toothpaste and retailing.

Automotive led the Top 200 in category spending at $2.85 billion for 30 brands, up 17.3%-the mix of a first-quarter uptick of 24.3% and second-quarter growth of 11.4%. Eleven Asian marques outraced media spending by Detroit and the European brands in both quarters, up 30.1% and 14.6%, respectively.

But only Toyota among Japan's Big 3 advanced in U.S. car sales, up 4.4% to 399,538 units for 9.1% share of market (up from 8.2% in the prior year), according to Automotive News, sister publication of Ad Age. Spending for Toyota cars and trucks grew 30% in this period to $222 million.

There were pockets of growth. Dodge cars and trucks advanced the most rungs in the 200's top 10 landing at No. 9 with spending of $186.7 million, up 58.9%. That helped deliver a strong showing at dealers where sales of Dodge cars grew 11.8% to 222,760 units, raising Dodge's market share 0.8 points to 5.1%.

Chevrolet, the highest ranking auto brand in media spending, plowed 37.1% more into media and boosted sales 1.3% to 448,108 units. Chevy registered the largest market share growth among all car brands, up 2.3 points to 11.8% of market. Ford is market leader at 15.5%, according to Automotive News.

The 200's 23-brand personal care & remedies category hit a mercurial 32% gain in media spending to $803 million in the first half. Five analgesics claimed just over a quarter of the total, or $225 million, up 35.4%.

Aleve from Procter & Gamble Co. has turned this subcategory, valued at $2.7 billion in retail sales, into more than a showcase for Tylenol. Introduced in spring '94 with a marketing budget estimated at $100 million, Aleve grabbed a 5.4% share for the year ended August '95, according to three-outlet sales data from Information Resources Inc. Aleve was supported by $34.4 million in first-half media spending.

As the total market grew only 1.5% in sales through August, Aleve grabbed its $143.3 million sales largely from competitors, particularly Tylenol, and from the bottom tier of the market. Tylenol slipped to a 30.3% share from 32.8% in August '94 as sales fell from $872 million to $808.3 million, according to IRI.

Mentadent's share and media movement in the toothpaste market, valued at $1.4 billion (up 6%), have proven meteoric. Backed by $34.3 million in media in the first half, up 130.8%, the baking soda/peroxide product from Unilever held the market's No. 3 spot at an 11.9% share for the year ended July 2, up from 7.0% in mid-'94. Leader Crest slipped to 29.4% (down 2.2 points) and Colgate fell to 18.4%, according to IRI.

Consumer electronics, one of the few bright spots in retailing, contributed $244.9 million in media, up 10%. The subcategory harbors retail's fastest growing ad spender, Best Buy, its outlays up 172.9% to $31.5 million. Best Buy and Circuit City are locked in a virtual dead heat, each with a 9% share of the $49.8 billion market for consumer electronics. Circuit City, spending $4 to every $1 by Best Buy, may be rethinking its media strategy. Its first-half outlay dipped 1.9%.

In entertainment, market share at midyear was tightly packed around 18% each in ticket sales for Universal Studios, Warner Bros. and Buena Vista, according to Variety.

Hollywood flooded the top 200 with 14 studios that mounted a collective $930.2 million in media spending, up 28% from the prior year, an indication not only of more releases (up 19% through the summer) but bigger marketing budgets.

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