Before COVID-19 reared its ugly head, automakers spent close to $456 million dollars on TV advertising in the first quarter, according to TV analytics firm Alphonso.
Toyota led the pack, outspending its nearest competitor by $12 million.
The report analyzed viewership data from 15 million smart TV households.
Six companies spent more than $40 million each: Toyota ($60.7 million), General Motors ($48.7 million), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ($48.4 million), Subaru ($45.2 million), Ford Motor Co. ($41.6 million) and Hyundai ($40.9 million.)
Among the top six brands by spend, Toyota, Hyundai and Jeep all invested in the Super Bowl.
The quarter is usually dominated by college and pro sports -- but after COVID-19 halted seasons including the NCAA’s March Madness runup to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, more airings shifted to popular TV stalwarts like “The Voice,” “American Idol,” “60 Minutes” and family or crime dramas.
Top spenders include Mazda, which spent $9.9 million on 3,185 airings of its "Feel Alive" spot for the 2019 CX-30; Toyota, which spent $9.4 million for three airings of its Super Bowl TV spot and Hyundai, which spent $9.4 million for 14 airings (including the Super Bowl) of its "Smaht Pahk" spot for its Hyundai Sonata.
FCA spent $9.3 million for 21 airings of its Jeep "Groundhog Day" spot featuring actor Bill Murray, while Kia also spent $9.3 million for three airings of its "Tough Never Quits" spot. Genesis also spent $9.3 million for seven airings of its GV80 spot featuring musician John Legend and model Chrissy Teigen. All three spots ran during the Super Bowl.
Nissan’s “Refuse to Compromise” TV campaign garnered the brand a 27.8% overall lift in visitors to dealerships, according to Alphonso. The spot, featuring actress Brie Larson, was created by TBWA and debuted March 11. Nissan spent $7.1 million for 2467 airings.
The feminist message garnered some misogynist blowback from trolls on social media. But clearly it resonated with the audience it was targeting: “accomplished, career-focused individuals,” according to Allyson Witherspoon, vice president, marketing communications and media, Nissan North America.
The spot shows a young professional woman who is about to compromise her career plans when Larson arrives in a Monarch Orange Metallic 2020 Nissan Sentra SR. During an action-packed joyride through downtown Los Angeles, Larson uses the Sentra to inspire the woman to make a case for what she deserves.