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Media may have found their philosophers' stones.

The Olympic Games, the silver screen, new pharmaceuticals, plus a burst in auto spending all turned to gold as they pushed 1996 three-quarter advertising 13.8% ahead of the same period in 1995 for the nation's Top 200 megabrands, according to Advertising Age's quarterly report.

The Games drove network TV up 19.2% for both the 200 and all advertisers. Olympic network NBC-TV collected $1.53 billion in advertising in the third quarter, nearly twice its take in the same 1995 period.


The heavy ad booking on NBC and advertisers' preemptive category exclusivity buys at NBC's six owned-and-operated stations influenced spending on other networks. ABC-TV, down 1.7% through the first half, grew 9% in the third quarter for a 1.4% gain in ad dollars for the nine months of '96. CBS-TV advanced 5.4% in the quarter. It had been up 4.3% for the half.

Advertising from the Olympics also came in unmeasured forms. AT&T, the nation's top megabrand in spending at $473.7 million for the three quarters, was one of many to pay up to $40 million for Olympic participation.

Network TV for the three-quarter period accounted for just over 20% of the nation's overall media spending and 36% of the Top 200's, according to Competitive Media Reporting, the source for the 11 media totals in this report. Those amounts are typical of non-Olympic periods, indicating elevated spending penetrated deeply across media.


Network and spot TV combined to grab 40% of the $1.9 billion media pie for the 20-member entertainment & movies category. Newspapers, traditionally the dominant ad channel for Hollywood, still claimed 33%.

Increasingly, TV has become well-suited for the flashy promos like that for special-effects-packed movies like 20th Century Fox's "Independence Day." Fox bought network time worth $1 million in the first quarter for the movie that opened July 4. Over the three quarters, it spent $27.4 million on the blockbuster.

The biggest summer blockbuster support came from Warner Bros. for "Twister," at $30.3 million, followed by the same studio's "Eraser" at $29.1 million. Fifty of the new releases had media budgets that topped $10 million.

Spending on personal care & drugs, a 26-member category, increase 39.4% to $1.53 billion, with network TV claiming $883.9 million, a figure up 49.3% over network spending in '95. Media bursts introduced Zantac 75, Orudis KT and Sporanox.

The 32-brand automotive category boosted spending 7.3% to $4.13 billion to continue its climb from a depressed first quarter that was 1.5% beneath first-quarter '95. The auto category had muscled a 2.4% increase by the end of the second quarter.


Auto spending continues mixed, however. The 11 Asian makes have struggled. Their combined $1.43 billion is down 2.5% from the prior year. Spending declines begin at the top, with Toyota cutting outlays on cars and trucks 8.9%.

Toyota may have pared spending but not on its Camry, up 9% to $60 million. Camry is striving to become the U.S.'s top-selling car. Still, Ford's Taurus blew past the others in September with sales for that month 47% higher than the prior September, according to Automotive News.

Taurus' "alchemical" propellants-$57 million in media for the three quarters, nearly twice its three-quarter spending in '95, and rebates as high as $1,500 in

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