Automotive TV Spending, Impressions Fall In December

Automakers spent $372.5 million -- an estimated 12.9% less on TV advertising -- in December 2021, compared to a year ago, when spending neared $428 million,

Impressions for the month were also down 25.9% year over year, 29.9 billion vs. 40.4 billion. 

The top five brands by spend were Toyota ($40.2 million), Ford ($30.2 million), GMC ($28.5 million), Hyundai ($26.3 million) and Ram Trucks ($25.5 million).

While more than 50% of Toyota’s national TV ad spend for December was dedicated to NBC and Fox (largely around the NFL), the largest percentage of Toyota impressions were actually delivered by Hallmark at 18.3%, per iSpot. Still, about 80% of Toyota’s December TV ad spend came from sports-related programming.

Despite the return of more flexible schedules around live sporting events in December, automakers were still able to successfully rely on college football and NFL games to reach large audiences on TV, said Stuart Schwartzapfel, senior vice president, media partnerships at



“Those opportunities will continue in January, as automotive brands have already been rolling out new messaging for 2022, and typically use the NFL Playoffs as a jumping-off point for the year’s new ad creatives,” Schwartzapfel tells Marketing Daily.

The top five brands by TV ad Impressions in Dec. 2021 were Hyundai (2.49 billion), Ford (2.48 billion), Toyota (2.42 billion), Nissan (2.15 billion) and Lexus (2.07 billion).

The most-seen automaker ads for the month were Lincoln Motor Company: "Unexpected" (1.28 billion TV ad impressions); Chevrolet: "Let Chevy Take You There" (1.04 billion); Subaru: "Give Back Anthem" (906 million); Subaru: "The Largest Impact" (857 million); and Lexus: "Wonderland"(846 million).

The biggest spend increases among top 15 brands by spend, December 2021 (vs. December 2020) were GMC (up 59.2%), Lexus (up 52.1%), Chevrolet (up 14.4%), Ram Trucks (up 11.8%) and Mercedes-Benz (up 5.8%).

GMC’s increase is fueled by a greater investment in live NFL and college football games, but also the NBA (there were fewer games last December with the altered schedule) and studio shows around football as well. The brand nearly doubled its national TV ad spend (compared to last December) during NFL games, while dollars put toward college football increased by nearly four times, per iSpot.

The top programs for automakers by TV ad impressions share of voice for the month were the NFL (14.2% of impressions), college football (6.8%), SportsCenter (1.6%), NBA (1.2%) and college basketball (1.2%).

Automakers were the No.2 industry (by share of impressions) for the NFL in December, accounting for 8.0% of TV ad impressions – just behind auto & general insurance at 8.1%, per

Auto brands were the third-most prominent (by impressions SOV) ad industry during college football games, were the top industry during SportsCenter, and were No. 3 during NBA games.

The top networks for automaker TV ad impressions for the month were ESPN (9.1% of impressions), NBC (8.2%), Fox (8.2%), CBS (8.1%) and ABC (5.7%).

ESPN having at least partial broadcast rights for all of the top programs for automakers (by impressions SOV), propels the network to the No. 1 spot.

Despite the college football regular season coming to an end, ESPN is home to most of the sport’s bowl games -- including both College Football Playoff semifinal games that aired  Dec. 31.

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