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With the acquisition of AT&T Wireless, Cingular is mounting a challenge to unseat Verizon as the nation's most-advertised megabrand.

Cingular grew a phenomenal 106.9% to $670.7 million in media spending in first-half 2005 as it gained a larger national footprint that gave it more media touch points by merging AT&T Wireless into its operations. Verizon, up 8.5%, still held its own at $775.3 million, although the Baby Bell spent less on wireless than Cingular. Verizon has paced all megabrands in spending since 2003.

The nation's Top 200 megabrands aggregated $23.27 billion in first-half 2005 spending, up 10.6% from 2004, according to Advertising Age's 200 Megabrands, a semi-annual report on brands that spend the most in U.S. media. These megabrands are the darlings of U.S. media. Their 10.6% growth pulled the ad train in the first half, as support for all brands outside the Top 200 advanced only 1.7%.

Ad Age converts spending tracked by TNS Media Intelligence into megabrands. Cingular's huge increase is without the inclusion of AT&T Wireless in the prior year, because Ad Age doesn't merge two megabrands. Indeed, missing from this six-month list is the No. 2 spender from first-half 2004, AT&T Communications, which spent $455.6 million in that period. AT&T Wireless, two-thirds of that outlay, was sold to Cingular in October 2004; AT&T Corp., accounting for the rest, will merge in early 2006 into SBC Communications, 60% owner of Cingular.

Ford, backed by $496.9 million, was the most advertised auto megabrand. Spending behind brands such as Mustang ($32.6 million) and the new Ford Five Hundred sedan ($68.4 million) contributed to the 20.7% increase in the megabrand.

Four other auto megabrands rounded out the top ten. Autos were the most advertised category among the Top 200, drawing $5.06 billion in first-half spending, but the 29 megabrands that make up the category were only up 3.6% over 2004. This sluggish growth was lower than all megabrand categories except retail.

Low auto ad growth wasn't a wholesale ad depression in the category; advertising rose at 19 of the 29, while 10 registered lower ad numbers than in 2004 when new products attracted larger spending. Mazda dropped 42.1% in media as it cut spending on the Mazda 3 and RX-8 models; Mitsubishi dropped 50.3% overall as it pared spending on Galant and Endeavor.

Nissan media outlays backed off in the period to $388.8 million, down 14.1%. Nissan didn't feel the cut in reduced sales, its 2004 sales momentum sustained in first-half 2005 based on U.S. market share growth from 4.7% in first-half 2004 to its current 4.8%, according to Ad Age sibling Automotive News.

However, Mitsubishi and Mazda lost 0.2 and 0.6 share points, respectively, in a market in which one share over the six-month period represented 85,700 vehicles sold.


The heavy telecommunications spending has been a life raft for newspapers. While all advertising in newspapers was up just 2% in the first half, advertising by the Top 200 brands grew 17.5% to $3.28 billion in the medium. Of that tally, the Top 200 telecom category grew 15.7% to $989.2 million in newspapers. Verizon and Cingular spent more than $600 million in newspapers combined. Sprint and T-Mobile, telecom's next two spenders, added another $250 million between them to newspapers.

Broadcast TV drew a third of the Top 200 spending, its traditional take and the most of any medium. The Top 200 spent $7.77 billion in broadcast, a total equal to two-thirds of all spending in broadcast during the period. Again, a telecom megabrand led the way in the medium, with Cingular spending $245.8 million.

Among the Top 200, broadcast may be getting the lion's share of ad dollars, but cable TV, at $3.34 billion, is growing faster, up 26.1% to broadcast's 9.6%. The Top 200 contributed 42% of the $7.94 billion spent by all advertisers on cable TV.

Ranking just behind telecom, retail megabrands spent $2.56 billion through June.

Home Depot, Sears and Wal-Mart all cut ad spending, holding down growth to only 2.1% for the 18-member category. Target, at $227.7 million, grew 17%, and Macy's, advanced 28.9%. Federated Department Stores is increasing the number of Macy's by converting stores gained in its buyout of May Department Stores.

The financial services category grew 15.9% in media as its 18 members continued to mine consumer services. Capital One, with $111.8 million behind its message demanding to know "what's in your wallet," moved up to ad levels of MasterCard and Visa megabrands.

Internet spending continued to assert itself among the Top 200, advancing 26.6% to $1.46 billion, representing over a third of all Internet advertising. The Vonage megabrand was Internet's largest spender at $122.4 million. Overall, the Internet telephony carrier upped its spending to $188.9 million from $30.2 million in first-half 2004 to counter competition from new entries in the voice-over-Internet protocol market.

Movies, omitted from the megabrands because they lack spending continuity over time, are pulling ad budgets of $40 million-plus for major releases. Paramount's remake of the "The Longest Yard" was pushed by $43.5 million, more than the entire production budget of the original 1974 film.

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