By Barry Janoff
June 23, 2014: For those people looking for signs that the economy is firmly on the road to recovery, here is a pretty significant one: Total advertising expenditures increased 5.7% in the first quarter of 2014 (January-March) to $34.9 billion; spending among the ten largest advertisers in the first quarter of 2014 was nearly $4.4 billion, a 14.1% increase and an aggregate gain of $540 million versus the same period last year; and total spending among the ten largest advertising categories grew 6.1% to more than $22 billion.
The boost was attributed in large part to three main factors: the Winter Olympics, higher spending for the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl XLVIII and early spending for political campaigns according to a just-released study from research and marketing firm Kantar Media, New York.
The biggest sector increase was in Spanish language TV, which had an 18% boost, and Spanish language magazines, up 15.8% in spend vs. the first quarter of 2013. That was followed by network TV (14.5%) and Internet display ads (13%). Spend on cable was up 6.2%.
However, the news was not good across the board.
Consumer magazine print expenditures fell 2% and ad pages declined more than 5%, impacted by "severe reductions from the two largest magazine advertisers — Procter & Gamble and L’Oreal — [which] account for more than 10% of total spending," according to Kantar.
Although national newspapers finished the period with spending unchanged compared to a year ago, local newspaper ad spend decreased 5.8% due to "commensurate declines in ad space and continuing cutbacks by local auto dealers and retailers," Kantar Media reported in its study.
National spot radio was up 6.7% "driven by a larger number of brands using the medium." Concurrently, local radio (considered to be English language-speaking stations, per Kantar) experienced a spending decline of 4.7% and Hispanic local radio stations were down 10.8%.
According to Kantar, "Both of these segments were hit by lower spending from the retail, auto dealer and restaurant categories."
All figures are based on the "Kantar Media Strategy" multimedia ad expenditure database across all measured media.
“The Winter Olympics delivered its expected windfall in the first quarter, adding about $600 million of incremental ad spending to the marketplace," Jon Swallen, chief research officer for Kantar Media North America, said in a statement.
However, Swallen qualified the findings. "But the nature of the event is that this money is narrowly distributed and doesn’t benefit all sectors of the market. Subtracting the Olympics’ contribution, the growth rate for remaining expenditures was just under four percent.”
Expenditures for the ten largest advertising categories grew 6.1% in Q1 to just over $22 billion. Nine of the ten had spending increases, led by automotive, where category spend was $3.8 billion, up 7.7% versus 2013.
According to Kantar, "Auto advertising continues to be propelled by a strong sales climate for new vehicles and a steady stream of model introductions and redesigns that trigger larger ad budgets."
Concurrently, the company with largest year-over-year growth was General Motors, which raised ad spending 55.8% to $593.4 million. "Amidst an expanding product recall, GM ad messaging remained focused on its current vehicle lineup with extra support allocated to newly redesigned versions of the Cadillac CTS, Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra," according to Kantar.
Two other auto manufacturers also registered significant spending increases, which were driven by marketing launches for redesigned models: Fiat Spa, with ad spend that rose 38.8% to $340.9 million; and Toyota Motors, up 7.7% to $315.6 million.
The automotive category was well-represented during Super Bowl XLVIII in February. Among the car makers and car-related companies with commercial time on Fox, which charged what was a record of upward of $4 million for a 30-second spot: Audi, Carmax, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Maserati, Toyota and Voikswagen.
Six of the top ten marketers had significant TV ad buys during the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, which were broadcast in the U.S. by NBC and networks of the NBC Sports Group. The group included AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway, Comcast, GM, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble.
Behind GM's nearly 56% spend increase in the quarter were Fiat Spa ($340.9 million spend, up 38.8%), Pfizer ($354.9 million, up 33.6%), Verizon ($370.8 million, up 24.8%) and Berkshire Hathaway ($329.8 million, 20.7%).
"Verizon Communications raised its ad spending . . . as the company completed its buyout of Vodafone’s ownership stake and refocused its attention on marketing requirements for its wireless and broadband services," according to Kantar. "Rival AT&T increased spending by 4.9% to $535.5 million as it rolled out a new umbrella campaign with the tagline, 'Building you a better network.'"
Kantar said that Pfizer "aggressively boosted ad support for the prescription drug Celebrex in advance of a May 2014 patent expiration, which opens the door to sales competition from generic alternatives."
Berkshire Hathaway rise in ad spend was "primarily attributable to [its] GEICO insurance subsidiary," per the Kantar Media study.
Looking ahead, Kantar said that "an early rush of political spending for key races in Alaska, North Carolina and Texas were a reminder that as November elections draw closer, political money will increasingly define and drive the spot TV marketplace."
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