Prime time: Amazon is now Earth’s biggest advertiser
Welcome to the advertising wayback machine: Ad spending for the world’s 100 biggest advertisers edged up 0.9% to a record $300 billion in 2019—before marketers slammed the brakes on spending in early 2020 amid the global pandemic.
Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers has a new leader: Amazon, whose advertising and promotion spending soared 34% to $11 billion in 2019 as net sales surged 20% to $281 billion.
That spending made Amazon the biggest global advertiser, moving up from the No. 5 position a year ago. Amazon vaulted over former No. 1 Procter & Gamble Co., which spent an estimated $10.7 billion on advertising and other marketing costs in the fiscal year ended June 2020, according to Ad Age Datacenter.
This marks only the second time P&G wasn’t on top in worldwide spending since Ad Age began the global ranking in 1987. P&G previously came in No. 2 to Samsung Electronics Co. in 2017.
Over the past 25 years, Amazon pumped $47 billion into advertising and promotion to generate $1.3 trillion in net sales.
The online retailer has increased ad and promotion spending every year except for 2001, 2002 and 2003, according to Ad Age Datacenter.
Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers, a ranking of the 100 biggest spenders, serves as the 2019 baseline for marketers and marketing activity before COVID-19 and a global recession.
The 2020 tally for marketers won’t become clear until after companies disclose financial results in the early months of 2021.
But 2020 ad spending figures for top marketers are going to be depressed—with exceptions for some advertisers that increased spending to take advantage of market opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Insurance marketer Progressive Corp., for example, boosted ad spending by 20% in the first nine months of 2020. Progressive’s most recent quarterly regulatory filing said: “We will continue to invest in advertising as long as we generate sales at a cost below the maximum amount we are willing to spend to acquire a new customer.”
Packaged-goods marketers, benefiting from consumer pantry-loading and increased consumption during the pandemic, continue to pour money into advertising. Colgate-Palmolive Co. increased global ad spending by 10% in the first nine months.
But rising revenue doesn’t necessarily translate into higher spending. Revenue at Netflix jumped 25% in the first nine months, yet the streaming service cut marketing spending by 17%, “primarily due to a $327 million decrease in advertising expenses,” according to a Netflix filing.
Alphabet, parent of Google, saw revenue rise 8.5% in the first three quarters, but it cut ad and promotion expenses by $718 million “as we reduced spending and paused or rescheduled campaigns and changed some events to digital-only formats as a result of COVID-19,” the company said in a filing.
Amazon has prospered in the pandemic, with worldwide net sales rocketing 35% in the first nine months as it delivered the goods to consumers. But that doesn’t necessarily lead to surging ad and promotion spending even for a marketer as flush with cash as Amazon.
The retailer’s marketing spending in the first nine months rose 15%, primarily due to increased costs for staff involved in marketing and selling activities, “partially offset by lower spending on marketing channels as a result of COVID-19,” Amazon said in a filing. The company said it expects “marketing costs as a percentage of net sales to continue to be favorably impacted” by COVID-19 through at least fourth-quarter 2020.
Amazon is one of 13 internet-centric companies in the Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers top 100 ranking. Internet firms as a group accounted for an outsized portion of ad spending growth in recent years, but that wasn’t the case in 2019. The internet firms collectively increased 2019 global ad spending by 1.2%—not far from the 0.9% growth for the remaining 87 companies in the ranking.
Shrinking ad growth for internet firms mostly relates to China, where the economy last year grew at the slowest pace since 1990. Among the 13 internet firms in the ranking, three marketers cut spending: China ventures Ant Group, Baidu and Tencent. Ant, which operates digital payment platform Alipay, slashed ad and promotion spending 66% in 2019.
To be sure, spending jumped 35% at another Chinese firm, internet retail giant Alibaba. But as a group, the four Chinese internet ventures in the top 100 last year cut spending by 27%. The ranking’s remaining nine non-China internet firms increased spending 15%.
Among the Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers, internet firms topped the list of companies with the sharpest 2019 spending increases: Facebook (up 43%), Alibaba (up 35%) and Amazon (up 34%).
Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers includes a roster of marketers from Amazon to No. 100 Rewe Group, a German retailer and travel services provider, with spending increases at 56 of the companies.
Ad Age Datacenter subscribers can access the full World’s Largest Advertisers ranking and a global marketers database showing company profiles, executives and key agency relationships at AdAge.com/globalmarketers2020.
Among the top 100 advertisers, 49 are based in North America, 29 in Europe and 22 in Asia.
Ad Age converted non-U.S. currencies at average exchange rates. Spending in U.S. dollars for the top 100 in 2019 edged up a tepid 0.9% to $300 billion—before many marketers slashed spending in 2020 amid the pandemic and recession.
Limited dollar-based spending growth in 2019 in part reflects the effect of exchange rates; the euro and currencies in China, South Korea and the U.K. fell in the range of 4% to 6% against the dollar in 2019.
Personal care and household products was the biggest category among the Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers with 15 marketers spending $52 billion, up 1.0%. Retail was second with 16 retailers spending about $45 billion, up 14.7% based on increased spending by internet retailers. Automotive was third, with 14 automakers spending $42 billion, down 3.9% as companies tightened expenses.
Nine of the Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers had no significant U.S. measured-media spending in 2019: Automakers PSA Group (France), Renault (France) and SAIC Motor Corp. (China); retailers Aeon Co. (Japan) and Rewe; internet firms Ant, Baidu and Tencent; and dairy marketer Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co. (China). PSA and U.K.-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have a pending merger to form a global automaker, Netherlands-based Stellantis.
The global ranking complements the Ad Age Leading National Advertisers report; 84 of the 200 biggest U.S. spenders (and 69 of the 100 biggest U.S. spenders) made the ranking of the world’s top 100 spenders.
Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers 2020 is the 34th annual global report produced by Ad Age Datacenter. This article is a summary of the full data set.
Ad Age Datacenter subscribers can access the full Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers 2020 data set including a ranking and a global marketers database showing company profiles, executives and key agency relationships at AdAge.com/globalmarketers2020.
Online content includes:
• Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers 2020: Ad Age Datacenter’s exclusive ranking of the 100 biggest spenders.
• Global marketers database: Profiles, ad spending, executives and key global agencies for Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers.
• Biggest advertisers by country: Rankings based on measured-media spending.
Methodology: Spending for Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers 2020 from Ad Age Datacenter estimates and company disclosures.
Total worldwide advertising spending encompasses advertising, marketing services (including promotion and direct marketing) and digital marketing (including social media). Figures are based on calendar 2019 results or, for companies on fiscal years, the most recent fiscal year ended on or before June 30, 2020. Ad Age translated currencies to U.S. dollars at average exchange rates.
The global marketers database also breaks out measured-media spending for top advertisers by country based on Ad Age Datacenter’s analysis of spending data from media tracking services. Links to tracking services available at AdAge.com/globalmarketers2020.
Datacenter directors: Kevin Brown, Bradley Johnson. Senior research editor: Catherine Wolf. Research assistants: Nadia Alexandra, Bennett Judd, Joy R. Lee.
© Copyright 2020 Crain Communications Inc. The data and information presented is the property of Crain and others and is protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. For personal, noncommercial use only, which must be in accordance with Ad Age’s Terms and Conditions at AdAge.com/terms. Archiving, reproduction, redistribution or other uses are prohibited.