TOP 200 BRANDS;SHARE BATTLE: AUTOS, TOOTHPASTE LEAD 3RD-QUARTER SPENDING FLURRY

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The nation's 200 leading megabrands reported quarterly by Advertising Age pushed media spending for the three quarters of 1995 to $16.36 billion, up 13.5%, fueling market battles across a broad spectrum of categories.

The 200, determined by 11-media totals from Competitive Media Reporting, continued to account for nearly 40% of all media advertising of $42.5 billion.

Within the top 200, autos claimed a quarter of spending, or $3.84 billion, up 11% as carmakers sought to revive unit sales-down 3.7% industrywide for the period, according to Automotive News, sister publication to Ad Age.

SOARING STRATUS

Few bucked that slump more dramatically than Dodge. As parent Chrysler Corp. poured $275.5 million (up 79.3%) in media on the 200 megabrand (including cars and trucks), unit sales for Dodge cars grew 14.6%, spurred by the top-selling Neon and new entries Stratus and Avenger. Stratus became the top-advertised Dodge car nameplate at $51.4 million for three quarters. AN reports Stratus grabbed 1.1% of the U.S. car market for the full year and helped push Dodge's car share to 4.7%-its highest since the late '80s.

Telephone category spending, up 10.5% to $1.24 billion, was paced by AT&T, top spender at $519 million, up 4.1%. The long-distance portion of AT&T, MCI and Sprint rose 16.2% to $651.5 million.

Within the broad personal care and remedies category, up 25.7%, several interlopers jostled category leaders. Unilever's Mentadent, for one, spent $46.2 million, up 92.7%, and seemed to catch Crest temporarily asleep in the first half-Procter & Gamble awoke to double Crest's first-half outlays in the third quarter alone.

CREST TAKES A LICKING

Mentadent toothpaste's 12-month share through October '95 rose three points to 12.5% and a No. 3 ranking, as leading Crest slipped a point to 29%. With the retail dentifrice market growing only 5% to $1.5 billion, Crest's loss was Mentadent's gain. Colgate-Palmolive's Colgate, No. 2, clung to an 18.5% share of market in both years, according to Information Resources Inc.'s three-outlet data.

The only remedy to reach 200 spending heights in the $1.3 billion antacid market at retail was Pepcid AC at $34.3 million. The Johnson & Johnson brand, taken over the counter last spring, claimed 8.2% of market by the end of November, according to IRI data. Pepcid dined on J&J sister, No. 1 Mylanta, to reach its No. 5 spot as Mylanta slipped 1.4 points to a 13.5% share.

While four analgesics occupy slots among the top 200 (spending for each is up 8% or more), P&G's newcomer Aleve is the only one to make sizable market-share headway. Aleve, introduced in June '94, has risen to No. 4 at 5.3% of a market valued at a no-growth $2.7 billion at yearend, according to IRI. Aleve's share came largely from No. 1 J&J's Tylenol, slipping to 29.9% at yearend '95, down 2.3 points.

MICROSOFT UPS ANTE

Microsoft Corp. packed nearly $39 million in media in just the third quarter behind the much-ballyhooed launch of Windows 95. In the same time frame IBM Corp. flooded $40 million into its PCs, and struggling Apple Computer added $18 million. Little wonder the 200's computer category spending gushed to $369 million, up 101.5%.

A rare spending gap separates Folgers and Maxwell House-$60.4 million to $46 million-coffee moguls whose product lines and media footsteps generally follow each other.

Look for the gap to narrow. Maxwell House already is funneling dollars into its more traditional lines, like decaffeinated ground coffee (recipient of $10.4 million in just two quarters of '95).

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