SPECIAL REPORT: Top 50 b-to-b advertisers cut spending 2.8% in 2009

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Still struggling with the effects of the recession, the top 50 b-to-b advertisers spent an estimated $3.77 billion on measured media last year, down 2.8% from $3.88 billion in 2008, according to a BtoB analysis of data from Kantar Media.

The figures include estimated b-to-b ad spending on business magazines, consumer magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, Internet and outdoor ads. Spending was down in nearly all media categories, with two exceptions: Internet ad spending by the top 50 b-to-b advertisers was up 25.1% last year as marketers shifted large portions of their budgets to the medium; TV ad spending climbed 5.4%.

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The category hit hardest last year was business publications, with the top 50 b-to-b advertisers decreasing their combined spending 27.6% in this area. Also suffering were consumer magazines (down 19.6%), newspapers (down 19.0%) and outdoor advertising (down 13.2%).

The No. 1 b-to-b advertiser last year was Verizon Communications, which spent an estimated $331.7 million, down 7.5% from 2008.

“The business audience is extremely important to us,” said Michael McLaughlin, director of business marketing at Verizon, pointing to the company's more than 1 million small-business customers. “We market all of our services to them via several different vehicles. From a mass perspective, we used radio, TV, print and online advertising last year.”

One of the company's largest b-to-b campaigns was an integrated effort called “Great Year,” which promoted a bundle of services aimed at business customers, including voice and broadband. The campaign featured TV, online, radio and print ads, and was created by McCann Erickson, New York.

One of the company's largest b-to-b campaigns was an integrated effort for Verizon Solutions called “Great Year” that promoted a bundle of services aimed at business customers, including voice, broadband and Wi-Fi. That campaign featured TV, online, radio and print ads.

Verizon used a variety of print publications for its b-to-b advertising last year, from local business magazines to The Wall Street Journal, McLaughlin said.

The No. 2 b-to-b advertiser last year was AT&T Inc., which spent an estimated $308.8 million on measured media, down 5.6% from 2008.

“Uniquely well-suited advertising certainly is an important piece of what we do to support our marketing efforts to business customers,” said Alicia Dietsch, VP-marketing communications for AT&T Business Solutions, which markets to small businesses, large enterprises and government customers.

For the small-business segment, AT&T launched a campaign called “All for Less” to promote a bundled package of business services for one price. That effort included print, online and radio.

AT&T also rolled out campaigns around managed security—one of its emerging service areas for business customers—and for storage and data solutions. DDB Chicago created all those campaigns.

IBM Corp., the No. 3 b-to-b advertiser last year, increased its spending 21.9% to an estimated $216.8 million. Its largest b-to-b advertising effort was its “Smarter Planet” campaign, which debuted in November 2008 and continued throughout 2009.

The campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather New York, included TV, print, online and out-of-home. IBM bought TV spots on such programs as “The Masters” golf tournament and Sunday morning news shows, as well as print ads in publications including Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Some other top advertisers also boosted their b-to-b ad spending by double-digits last year, despite the recession.

For example, No. 4 advertiser Sprint Nextel increased its spending 29.6% to an estimated $206.4 million, and No. 5 advertiser Microsoft Corp. upped its spending 29.0% to an estimated $193.1 million.

Microsoft launched a major b-to-b campaign last year called “Because It's Everybody's Business,” developed by JWT. The effort included TV, print and online ads.

No. 6 advertiser General Electric Co. also raised its b-to-b ad spending, 9.4% to an estimated $130.4 million, and moved up from No. 8 in 2008.

GE ran a number of integrated campaigns for its “ecomagination” platform, as well as a new campaign for “healthymagination.” BBDO New York handled creative for both efforts.

Rounding out the top 10 b-to-b advertisers were Hewlett-Packard Co., Bank of America, FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service of America. All of these, with the exception of Bank of America (which rose from No. 11 last year to No. 8 this year) retained a top 10 ranking as in 2008.

Within the top 50 b-to-b advertisers, there were some noticeable moves. Intuit Inc., which markets software to small businesses, increased its ad spending 36.9% and rose to No. 15, from No. 33 in 2008.

Monsanto Co., an agricultural company, boosted its ad spending 65.2% and climbed to No. 17, from No. 40.

There were also some advertisers that dropped in the rankings. Dell Inc. decreased ad spending last year by an estimated 35.3% and fell to No. 21 from No. 14.

Citigroup cut its ad spending an estimated 31.2% and fell to No. 24 from No. 16.

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