CMRFocus: This month, a medium-by-medium look at what advertisers spend.

  • by May 24, 2002
We’ve all seen charts of who the top 10 advertisers are, and that year-to-year list barely changes. But it’s not quite as often that people get a good look at who rules the spending roost among the nation’s big advertisers on a medium-by-medium basis.

However, with some data-retrieving help from CMR, MEDIA has been able to compile a year-end 2001 look at who the top 10 advertisers were across six different media: network TV, magazines, network cable, newspapers, out-of-home, and network radio. It makes for a much more complex look at who the big spenders are.

The differences in who puts their dollars where underscore how complex media planning has become. What also quickly becomes obvious is that not all advertisers think alike, and even advertisers in the same category can invest their money in vastly different ways. For instance, look at the nail-bitingly competitive market of telecommunications services. Why is it that AT&T and Worldcom both spend enough money to be in the top 10 in network cable, while competitor Sprint finds it more efficacious to put its money in newspapers? One possible explanation is that Sprint focused much effort on an e-solutions campaign launched in January 2001. Targeted toward the business market, it included heavy print buys. Sprint spent $34.5 million to become one of the country’s top newspaper advertisers. (AT&T and Worldcom spent $158 million and $122 million, respectively, as top cable advertisers.)

Not that making it into CMR’s top 10 should be the cornerstone of any media strategy. But the telling differences in media weight are everywhere. Why is it that Ford Motor, which ranks tenth overall among network TV advertisers, seems to have a greater belief in the power of newspapers than its rivals? Could be that its array of recently acquired upscale brands, such as Volvo and Range Rover, make for a print-heavy ad presence? Or is it that there is greater pressure from local dealers dictating local support?

Indeed, poring over numbers such as these is likely to pose more questions than it answers. But asking questions when you’re trying to figure out how to spend an ad budget is a good place to start.

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