Verizon Retains Top Spot as Biggest Advertising Spender

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CHICAGO ( -- Powered by its wireless unit, the Verizon megabrand drew $730.8 million in first-half 2004 measured advertising to lead all U.S. brand spending during the period.


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Verizon has led every half-year analysis of the Top 200 Megabrands' spending by Advertising Age since replacing AT&T the end of 2002. AT&T claimed the No. 2 spot at $519.1 million this time, although its total outlays are sure to erode when AT&T Wireless, which is included in the brand, is folded into Cingular Wireless operations later this year.

More spending, more customers
Of the Verizon total, 83% of that media spending backed its wireless efforts that helped the carrier expand its wireless customer base to 40.4 million. Verizon netted 3 million new customers from January through June of this year.

Spending for the 200 Megabrands grew 14.4% to $22.82 billion in the first half, accounting for 33.7% of $67.63 billion (up 9.1%) attributed to all advertisers by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, whose media data are collated for this report by Ad Age. TV (broadcast, cable and syndication) spending for the 200 grew 16.8% to $13.80 billion, with auto megabrands contributing $3.26 billion of that total. All TV ads advanced 11.1% to $27.84 billion.

Retailers' ad budgets helped keep print media healthy, contributing $1.17 billion of print's 200 megabrand total of $6.62 billion, up 11%. Automakers from the 200 bought $1.42 billion in print. All advertisers spent $26.86 billion in print, up 7.1%. Internet, radio and outdoor advertising rose 10.6% to a combined $2.40 billion for the 200.

9.1% growth in all media
The 9.1% growth in overall media spending at the half-way point is sure to reach double digits for the full year with second-half stimuli coming from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the U.S. presidential election.

The 200 Megabrands largely define the U.S. consumer marketplace. The top 10 general retail megabrands accounted for 69.1% of sales in that industry category at mid-year; the top 10 auto megabrands generated 70% of unit sales of light vehicles in the period; and the top 10 telecom megabrands claimed 94.5% of U.S. telecom sales.

Nissan, the top-spending auto megabrand, increased its media budget 32.9% in the first six months as it heavily supported its Titan pickup truck, Armada sports utility vehicle and Quest minivan. As its ad budget rose, so did its market share, from 4.1% of market at the end of 2003 to 4.9% at mid-year. Detroit's share continues to erode: Ford dropped from a 17.3% to a 16.8% share in the half-year period; Chevrolet slipped from 15.8% to 15.5%.

Prescription drug debate
Prescription drugs, another substantial Top 200 category, drew $1.47 billion in combined first-half spending from 20 brands, up 63.7% over their totals in the same period in 2003. Such growth, coupled with this month's decision by Merck & Co. to remove its osteoarthritis drug Vioxx from the market, has fed the debate over the use of advertising to create instant demand for drugs that may be potentially ineffective or unsafe without a long period of time to observe usage.

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