How Ad Age Ranked the 200 Leading National Advertisers

About the 2017 Report Including Methodology

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Ad Age Datacenter produced Advertising Age's 62nd annual Leading National Advertisers report. Ad Age published the report online June 26, 2017. A portion of the report appeared as the 200 Leading National Advertisers 2017 Fact Pack, included with Ad Age's June 26, 2017, print edition.

Ad Age Datacenter subscribers have exclusive access to the complete report at Exclusive online content includes:

  • Marketer Trees 2017, a database with ad spending, brands, profiles, executives and agency rosters for the nation's 100 biggest advertisers
  • New: Excel downloads of expanded tables including 200 Leading National Advertisers, 200 most-advertised brands, biggest ad spenders by medium and biggest ad spending categories

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Digital edition of 200 Leading National Advertisers 2017 Fact Pack:


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Ad Age Datacenter produced Marketer Trees 2017 as a database with ad spending, brands, profiles, executives and agency rosters for the 100 biggest U.S. advertisers. Ad Age Datacenter contacted advertisers and their agencies in May and June 2017 to confirm and update information on executives and agency assignments.

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The 200 Leading National Advertisers 2017 report ranks marketers by total U.S. advertising spending as estimated by Ad Age Datacenter.

Total U.S. ad spending estimates come from a top-down analysis of a company's spending on advertising based on disclosures in financial filings, company reports and industry benchmarking. Ad Age weights a company's reported worldwide ad costs to reflect a U.S.-only percentage. Ad Age estimates spending for companies that don't publicly disclose ad spending.

Total U.S. ad spending encompasses advertising, marketing services (including promotion and direct marketing) and digital marketing (including social media).

Ad Age has based its Leading National Advertisers rankings on a broad definition of advertising and promotion since the report debuted in 1956. The first report called the ranking "a carefully considered analysis of total advertising and promotional expenditures for each of these giant advertisers."

From the report's launch through the June 2016 report, Ad Age defined total U.S. ad spending as the sum of measured-media spending and unmeasured spending.

Essentially, unmeasured spending was the difference between a company's measured-media spending (from WPP's Kantar Media) and its total U.S. advertising and promotion costs (either reported by the company or estimated by Ad Age Datacenter).

Starting with the June 2017 report (200 Leading National Advertisers 2017), Ad Age eliminated the calculation of unmeasured spending.

Total U.S. ad spending now is based on Ad Age's top-down analysis of a company's estimated spending. Total U.S. ad spending is lower in some cases than U.S. measured-media spending, which comes from Kantar Media's bottom-up tally of spending in measured media based on rate card, average pricing data supplied by media sellers and other factors. Major advertisers in many cases get significant discounts off rate cards. Not all advertisers pay the same rate.

This report's figures for 2016 and 2015 reflect data collected and/or adjusted in 2017, so 2015 ad spending and rankings for a company and its brands may be different from the 2015 figures that appeared in the June 2016 report (LNA 2016). Ad Age Datacenter changed its ad spending model for some marketers in the June 2017 report.


In addition to total U.S. ad spending, the 200 Leading National Advertisers 2017 report shows measured-media spending.

Measured-media spending for this report includes ad spending in 21 media. It consists of 20 media tracked by Kantar Media in its Stradegy product plus free-standing inserts (FSIs). More info:

Measured media include:


  1. Broadcast network TV
  2. Cable TV networks
  3. Spanish-language network TV
  4. Spot TV
  5. Syndicated TV


  1. Internet display
  2. Paid search


  1. Business-to-business magazine
  2. Consumer magazine
  3. Local magazine
  4. Spanish-language magazine
  5. Sunday magazine


  1. Free-standing inserts
  2. Local newspaper
  3. National newspaper
  4. Spanish-language newspaper


  1. Local radio
  2. National spot radio
  3. Network radio

Outdoor and cinema

  1. Cinema (included for aggregate U.S. measured-media spending; not included in measured-media spending for individual companies in 200 Leading National Advertisers)
  2. Outdoor


Brands and companies that a Leading National Advertiser had as of June 2017 bought or divested are generally treated pro forma in this report as if completed deals had occurred at the beginning of the company's previous fiscal year (2015). Media spending for those brands or units generally is folded into or removed from the company for two consecutive years (2015 and 2016).

A Leading National Advertiser must own more than 50% of a product or unit for that product or unit's ad spending to be consolidated with the company in this report.

Ad Age treats joint ventures with 50/50 ownership as stand-alone ventures unless otherwise noted.


Ad Age Datacenter determined the 200 biggest U.S. brands -- the nation's 200 most-advertised brands -- by aggregating measured-media spending for all products or services that fell under that brand. For example, Ad Age combined Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft and Miller High Life under the Miller brand.


Ad Age aggregated Kantar Media category classifications as follows (not comprehensively):

  • Airlines, hotels, car rental and travel: includes cruise ship travel.
  • Apparel: ready-to-wear, underclothing and hosiery, jewelry, accessories, footwear.
  • Automotive: manufacturers and dealerships.
  • Direct-response advertising: direct-response advertising in all classifications.
  • Financial services: includes banks and credit cards.
  • Food, beverages and candy: beverages, confectionery and snacks, dairy, produce, meat and bakery goods, prepared foods, ingredients, mixes and seasonings.
  • General services: apparel services, business services, beauty shops, doctors, nurses, chiropractors, dentists, hospitals, clinics and medical centers, legal services, rental services, dating services, spectator sporting events, exterminators, electric and water companies.
  • Home furnishings, appliances and electronics: household furnishings and accessories, building materials, equipment and fixtures, appliances, electronics.
  • Home supplies and cleaners: household soaps, cleansers and polishes, laundry soaps, foils, wraps, paper products.
  • Medicines and remedies: pharmaceutical firms, medicines and proprietary remedies, fitness, eyeglasses, medical equipment.
  • Miscellaneous: aviation (excluding freight), employment recruitment, agriculture, lawn and garden, industrial, luggage, cameras, film.
  • Movies, recorded video and music: DVDs.
  • Personal care: cosmetics and beauty aids, personal hygiene, hair products, toiletries, hygienic goods and skin care.
  • Retail: discount department and variety stores, department stores, retail, shopping centers and catalog showrooms.
  • Telecom, internet services and ISP: telephone companies (wireless, local, long distance), internet services providers, web designers, communications networks, telephone equipment and offline internet support.


Ad Age Datacenter directors: Kevin Brown, Bradley Johnson
Senior research editor: Catherine Wolf
Research assistants: Nicole Carrasco, Megan Caruso, Will Judd, Gabrielle Rosas

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