The top 200 U.S. advertisers increased ad and marketing services spending a robust 4.6 percent in 2019 to a record $175 billion, the capstone to a decade of advertising growth. But marketers slammed the brakes on spending in early 2020 as the nation plunged into a COVID-induced recession.
WPP’s GroupM expects 2020 U.S. media ad revenue to tumble 12.9 percent (excluding political advertising). GroupM forecasts that spending in 2021 will grow by 4.2 percent (excluding political ads). But it likely will be some years before U.S. ad spending breaks the record set in 2019.
Ad Age Leading National Advertisers 2020, a ranking of the 200 biggest U.S. ad spenders, serves as the baseline for marketers and marketing activity in 2019—before COVID-19 and recession.
Key takeaways from Ad Age’s 65th annual report on the state of advertising:
Internet ventures are powering ad spending growth
A group of 21 internet-centric companies, from Amazon to Uber, drove spending growth for the 200 Leading National Advertisers. U.S. ad and marketing services spending for those internet companies rose 16.9 percent in 2019. Spending for the rest of the roster—179 marketers—increased 3.0 percent.
Internet firms account for five of the 10 companies with highest spending growth
Online financial marketplace LendingTree had the biggest U.S. spending increase among the report’s 21 internet-centric marketers (up 46 percent), followed by Facebook (+41 percent), Wayfair (+40 percent), Grubhub (+39 percent) and Amazon (+37 percent).
Amazon is now the nation’s biggest advertiser
With 2019 estimated U.S. ad and promotion spending of $6.9 billion, Amazon vaulted over Comcast Corp. to take the top spot for the first time in Ad Age’s U.S. advertisers ranking—up from No. 70 back in 2010. Amazon’s estimated $1.9 billion U.S. ad and promotion spending boost was far and away the biggest dollar increase among all companies. Download Ad Age Leading National Advertisers 2020 Fact Pack to see the ranking.
Some internet companies are hugely reliant on advertising to drive business
LendingTree last year poured 62 percent of revenue into advertising and promotion. Online automotive marketplace CarGurus spent 49 cents on advertising for each dollar of revenue. Travel venture TripAdvisor in 2019 spent about 27 percent of net sales on ads—though that’s down from 34 percent in 2018 and 40 percent in 2017.
Insurance marketers put a premium on advertising
Ad spending for insurance seller USAA surged 69 percent, the highest spending growth rate among the nation’s 200 biggest advertisers. Rivals State Farm and Progressive rocketed their spending by 34 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Berkshire Hathaway’s Geico had a smaller increase, but Geico ranked as the most-advertised brand for the fourth year in a row.
Retailers had the biggest total ad-spending growth among Ad Age Leading National Advertisers
The growth of 10.9 percent was powered by internet retailers, whose spending jumped 32 percent. Excluding internet retailers, total ad spending for retailers in the report was up 2.4 percent, with significant spending growth at Kroger Co., Target Corp. and Walmart.
Personal care marketers cut spending by 1.9 percent
Personal care had the sharpest ad-spending drop among major marketer categories in the Ad Age Leading National Advertisers report, with double-digit percentage declines in estimated spending at Coty and Johnson & Johnson.
Automotive total ad spending fell 1.7 percent
Automakers maneuvered to cut costs as U.S. car and light-truck unit sales slipped 1.2 percent. Highest automotive spending growth: CarGurus, which boosted U.S. ad spending an estimated 18 percent.