Top 10 categories by first-half ad spending (chart) Total measured media spending for first-half 1994 (chart) Top 200 mega-brands by first-half 1994 ad spending (chart) TELCOS' SPENDING BLASTS THROUGH ROOF IN FIRST HALF, AUTOS AND FOOD DRIVE UP BOTH SPOT TV AND SYNDICATION

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The telephone business ain't what it used to be.

In the first half of 1989, four telephone megabrands reported a meaty $236.1 million in media expenditures in one of the first Advertising Age Top 200 Brands reports.

Five years later, there are eight such megabrands among the 200, and their spending-charged by brand warfare and enhanced by growing services on the information highway-has risen to a phenomenal $757 million for first-half '94. That's 221% growth during the period.

Amid this hyperspending, AT&T Corp. has commanded the top spot in half the Top 200 quarterly reports, from its leading $253.5 million at mid-'89 to its commanding $368.2 million in first-half '94.

At the No. 2 position, Ford's first-half '94 spending was an arms-length behind at $277.3 million, up 9.8%. The Top 200 closed out with Duracell batteries at $19.7 million, up 52.6%.

As these percentages attest, ad spending in general has remained in the fast lane the first two quarters of 1994. Media outlays for the Top 200 weighed in at $10.2 billion, up 15.1% for the first half. Components include 24.8% growth in the first quarter and a 6.8% uptick in the second.

The Top 200's share of all media spending in the half rose 0.7 percentage points to 38.2%, according to the 11 national media monitored by Competitive Media Reporting-backbone of the report.

Reaping the ad harvest from the Top 200 were network TV (up 18.4%), spot TV (up 22%) and syndicated TV (up 12%, a growth estimate). These three media showed similar increases among all advertisers.

A euphoria check, however, is in order. The current Olympics year compares to a relatively weak mid-1993 when the level of spending on network and spot TV had just regained 1990 pre-recession levels. Network, spot and newspapers are the bulk of the media volume.

Category spending growth honors not surprisingly were claimed by telephones, up 43.4%. Of the $757 million total, the Big 3 long-distance carriers-AT&T, MCI and Sprint-grabbed 83%, or $630.1 million, a 180% increase over five years. In that short time the long-distance market has risen to revenues of nearly $80 billion from about $55 billion.

Phone services' remaining $126.9 million in advertising is credited to four Baby Bells and GTE, up a composite 43.9% from first-half '93. GTE was the lone local phone company in the Top 200 at the end of the '80s.

Aside from bringing sheer ad volume to the fray, the Baby Bells have taken the phone message regional, boosting such targeted media as spot TV.

Automotive, the Top 200 Brands' ad volume category leader by a long shot, drew $2.44 billion from 29 megabrands to account for nearly a quarter of the 200's media total.

The auto category, advancing 19.1% over the same period a year ago, was driven by $1.46 billion in ad spending from 16 U.S. automakers, up 21% for the half-same growth as first quarter.

Ten Asian marques accounted for $837.6 million, up 17.6%. Quarterly splits for the Asians were 13% in the first and 21.4% in the second.

Food advertisers advanced the most among heavy hitters in network TV. Food grew 23% to $700.2 million, just short of one-fifth of all TV advertising. Kellogg, the group's ad leader, was second only to AT&T in network expenditures, pouring $141.4 million into the medium.

Syndication-keyed to daytime, early fringe and children-product advertisers but increasingly elbowing in on prime time-was paced by Kellogg's $60.4 million. Food accounts for about $1 for every $3 spent in that segment of television.

Advertising Age adjusted CMR syndicated TV composites for the Top 200 and for all advertisers to reflect the annual increase of 12% monitored by Advertisers Syndicated Television Association. CMR's year-to-year data for the medium actually showed 74.5% growth, the result of monitoring more syndicated shows in 1994 than 1993 (58 vs. 36) and dramatic rate increases for some syndicated programs, says CMR. The prior-year syndication number for each Top 200 brand was not changed. Syndication represents 4.8% of Top 200 ad totals and 4.4% of all measured media advertising.

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