Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet Tops In Automotive TV Spending

TV spending by automakers continues to track more and more toward pre-pandemic levels, although impressions continue to drag.

Automakers spent an estimated $509.3 million on TV advertising this October -- a 3.9% decrease year over year, but a 15% jump from September 2020, according to

Impressions, at 29.7 billion, dipped 29.5% from last October, yet showed just an 8.9% decline from September.

The top five brands by spending were Toyota ($62.3 million), Ford ($42.6 million), Chevrolet ($42.4 million), Nissan ($40.2 million) and Hyundai ($39.0 million).

In terms of impressions, the top five brands were Toyota (3.1 billion), Chevrolet (3.0 billion), Ford (2.7 billion), Nissan (2.3 billion) and Honda (2.2 billion).

TV looked significantly different in October from both a programming and advertising standpoint, according to



Despite NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB and college football games all going on at once this October, impressions during sports-related shows actually made up a slightly lower percentage of all automaker brand impressions -- 40.5% in October 2019 vs. 39.3% in October 2020. Sports impressions seemed to borrow against one another, versus pulling from other genres.

Still, sports made up the top five shows by impressions for automaker brands. NFL football games led the way with 2.5 billion impressions, followed by MLB games (1.3 billion), college football (1.1 billion), NBA games (564.4 million) and SportsCenter (187.9 million).

“The return of sports has helped TV ad spending normalize for automakers, but it’s also ushered in the return of typical creative too,” says Stu Schwartzapfel, senior vice president, media partnerships at “While early in the pandemic, you saw automaker messaging focused on supporting communities and helping deal with the risks around COVID-19, recent ads have refocused on feature- and pricing-centric ads made to move vehicles as we get toward the end of 2020.”

Five different auto brand ads were seen at least 700 million times in October. 

Honda’s “With Capability to Amaze” had the most impressions, with 1.05 billion, while advertising several vehicles in its line. Nissan’s “Be There” Altima spot was second with 975 million impressions, followed by Lincoln’s “Limitations” (933 million), Hyundai’s “Buried” (715 million) and Cadillac’s “Never Stop Arriving” (711 million).

Though spend dipped slightly year over year for all auto brands, that wasn’t the case across the board. Of the top 20 brands on TV, 11 increased spend compared to last October.  Leading that group was Audi (up 1,164%), followed by Ram Trucks (up 42.1%), GMC (up 35.9%), Honda (up 34.0%) and Toyota (30.3%)

Just three of the top 20 brands saw spending drop by 20% or more: Volkswagen (down 47.6%), Buick (down 31.3%), Lexus (down 28.1%).

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