Automaker TV Spending Increases 18% In July

Automakers spent $223.5 million on national linear TV advertising in July, up nearly 18% compared to June, according to iSpot.

However, spending continues to be lower compared to a year ago due to the pandemic and its effects on the economy. Spending in July was down 28% vs. a year ago and impressions (28.7 billion) were down 10%.

The top brand by spend was Toyota ($28.1 million) which also had the most impressions (2.8 billion.) Other leaders in spending were Nissan ($24.6 million), Subaru ($20.0 million), Lexus ($17.7 million) and Kia ($14.8 million), per iSpot.

After Toyota, the next four brands by impressions were Hyundai (2.5 billion), Ford (2.4 billion), Hyundai (2.3 billion) and Nissan (2.3 billion).

Where automaker impressions came from in July 2020 didn’t necessarily change a lot year over year, according to iSpot.



During a typical July, baseball and soccer are the only U.S. team sports playing regular season games, so auto brands are more focused on reality TV, movies and drama/action shows for impressions. 

That was the case once again, as those three genres made up a combined 40.4% of automaker impressions in 2020, versus 38.5% in 2019.

“Though the auto industry has definitely scaled back spend compared to 2019, rising ad impressions numbers show an ability to continue finding where audiences are, even without live sports or other tentpole programming,” Stu Schwartzapfel, senior vice president, media partnerships at iSpot, tells Marketing Daily. “As those events return with consumers anxiously waiting to watch, many of the brands that spent less in recent months seem poised to jump right back into TV.”

As for the content of the ads, some brands began returning to normal messaging about summer sales events and general awareness. Others leaned into how to use driving as time for family bonding and/or just getting creative about the increase in time parents had to entertain kids. 

While overall spending was down, some brands saw an increase. Of the top 20 brands by spend in July 2020, eight actually increased spend year over year. Kia saw the biggest jump at 111%, followed by Ram Trucks (56%), Hyundai (36%), BMW (36%) and Nissan (24%).  

A lot of the industrywide spending decline comes from several big drops from the likes of Chevrolet (down 75%), Mercedes-Benz (down 71%), Volkswagen (down 67%), Lincoln (down 63%) and Cadillac (down 61%). Those five brands represented $86.9 million in spend last July, versus just $26.7 million in July 2020, according to iSpot.  

From an impressions standpoint, the industry started high for the month around July 4 sales messaging, then dipped before rising once again later, which is possibly related to the return of more live sports. That trend should continue into August, per iSpot. MLB, NBA and NHL games made up over 5.5% of impressions for automakers in all of 2019.

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