By Published on .

For the second year in a row, rival megabrands Verizon and AT&T each spent more than $1 billion on measured media, topping all other brands and helping to boost overall domestic measured ad spending to $128.4 billion in 2003, up from $120.1 billion in 2002. Verizon surpassed AT&T in 2002 and continued the ascent by increasing its budget 11.1% while AT&T tapered spending by 3.4%.

Spending for all megabrands was $41.4 billion, up 12.4%, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, the source for this report. The totals in the Megabrands report included for the first time spending in Spanish-language TV, business magazines, local magazines and the Internet. Despite talk of the death of the 30-second spot, TV accounted for $25.2 billion, or 61%, of the total-although that was down from 63.1% the prior year. Print, which accounted for 31.5% of the total, grew more, rising 16.7% behind double-digit increases in magazines and newspapers.

Among all advertisers, print was up 8.3%, while all TV showed a modest gain of only 3.4%. Spot TV held television in check, declining 5.4% to a total of $16.2 billion. It was the only media category to show any loss in 2003. Network TV gained only 1.8% to a total of $20.4 billion.

Among the Top 200, the 31 automotive megabrands led the way with $9.4 billion, up 6.9%.The drop in spot TV by automakers no doubt had an influence on the decline in that medium. Automakers spent $2.39 billion, down 5%, in spot TV. Some of that money shifted away from TV and into print: the top car brands spent almost $250 million more in magazines in 2003.


Although Ford Motor Co.'s Ford marque led all autos with $853 million in measured ad spending, Nissan Motor Co.'s Nissan megabrand moved up to become the second-ranked auto brand for the first time with $776 million, a 38.5% increase over 2002. Heavy spending behind new vehicles such as the Murano crossover SUV, Armada SUV and the Quest minivan contributed to Nissan' s overall increase.

Chevrolet, the No. 1 overall megabrand in 2000 with a measured budget of $819 million, has taken its foot off the gas in recent years, cutting spending back to $687 million in 2003, a drop of 19.4%. General Motors Corp. corporate spending, up 50.5% to $379 million, compensated for some of this decline, however, as the automaker continued to push companywide incentive programs.

Magazines had a strong year in 2003, growing 6.3% overall and 16.1% among the Top 200 megabrands. Top auto megabrands Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Chevrolet spent $727 million in consumer magazines, leading the Top 200 brands to measured spending of $5.6 billion.

Newpapers were the primary beneficiaries of the telecommunications splurge in 2003. Of the $5.4 billion spent by telecom megabrands in the Top 200, $2.1 billion went to newspapers. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and Cingular alone spent a combined $1.67 billion in newspapers in 2003. These brands were a driving force behind newpaper's 19% growth among the top 200 brands.

Retailers were the second-largest category as well as the second-biggest contributors to newspapers. The top 27 retail megabrands, led by Sears, Roebuck & Co., Home Depot, Wal-Mart Stores & Target Stores, spent a total of $6.3 billion on advertising in 2003. More than $1.9 billion of that was placed in newspapers.


With the growth of magazines and newspapers outpacing TV in 2003, the spending among all advertisers in the two media has almost reached parity. TV (network, spot, syndicated and cable) accounted for $54.4 billion of the total $128.4 billion, while print (all forms of magazines and newspapers measured by CMR) balanced that figure with $53.0 billion of its own. Radio, outdoor and Internet advertising round out the rest.

Financial services brands among the Top 200 showed robust growth in 2003. The 18 brands on the list spent $3.4 billion, up 21% over 2002, with $2 billion of that amount going into some form of TV. The American Express, Visa, and MasterCard megabrands led the pack, spending $1.02 billion combined, up 20.2%. Citibank, BankOne, and Wachovia financial services all had triple-digit growth in their media outlays as they made a push behind branded credit cards and consumer services.

McDonald's, the leading restaurant megabrand, spent $619 million in 2003. The chain began its "I'm lovin' it" campaign late in the year and also advertised new items targeting more health-conscious customers. Burger King, before the arrival of "" and a new lead agency, saw its media outlays decline by 19.1%. The No. 2 burger chain spent $294 million, less than half of the budget behind the golden arches. The 13 restaurant megabrands spent a combined $2.7 billion, up only 2.9% over 2002.

Early outlooks for 2004 are positive. Total first-quarter spending increased 9.6% over the same period in 2003. The Summer Olympics coupled with a tight election-year race should continue to drive ad spending, in spite of uncertainty in Iraq and an economy that has yet to reach a full recovery.

Most Popular
In this article: