Autos Lead Ad Surge

Ad spending in 2004, boosted by quadrennial factors and increased auto spending for SUVs and vans, rose 6.3 percent to $114.8 billion, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Auto companies led the ranks of American marketers, with the largest increase in spending. Combined expenditures for Nielsen’s three automotive categories (factory, local dealerships and dealer associations) rose 4 percent to $17.8 billion, a gain of $683 million.

“We saw a lot of new models, a lot of SUVs being advertised,” says Jeff King, managing director of Nielsen Monitor-Plus. “People aren’t feeling the pain of high gas prices yet when it comes to SUVs. We’re also starting to see the introduction of hybrids and a lot of push behind financing terms.”

Nielsen Monitor-Plus is a unit of Nielsen Media Research, which is owned by VNU, the publisher of Adweek.

Among the car companies showing the biggest dollar increase were General Motors, up 19.2 percent to $2.59 billion; DaimlerChrysler, 34.6 percent to $1.8 billion; and Ford, 18 percent to $1.5 billion. Nissan upped spending 5.7 percent to $1.07 billion; Toyota, 14.5 percent to $1.04 billion; and Honda, 8 percent to $843.4 million. Among the brands getting a spending boost in 2004 were Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lincoln Navigator, Chevrolet Equinox, GM Envoy and Saturn Vue.

Along with the auto industry, prescription drugs and credit card services also registered healthy gains for the year. (Together, these three categories contributed $2 billion more in overall ad spending compared to 2003.)

Though drug marketers suffered a public relations blow early in the fourth quarter with a slew of product recalls, the category stayed strong. “Situations like Vioxx were countered by other new product introductions,” says King.

Johnson & Johnson, which boosted ad expenditures 10.6 percent to $1.3 billion, put heavy support behind brands like the One Touch Ultra In-Home Diabetes Test ($20.6 million) and the launch of the drug Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo ($90.7 million).

Among other top 10 marketers, Procter & Gamble stayed at the top of the list, spending $3.03 billion, a 9.5 percent gain. SBC Communications increased its expenditures 10.1 percent to $1.3 billion; Altria Group, 2.6 percent to $1.1 billion; Pfizer, 2.4 percent to $1.1 billion; and Time Warner, 0.6 percent to $1.5 billion. Walt Disney lowered spending 2.1 percent to $1.3 billion.

The Summer Olympics, with spending of over $1.8 billion, helped increase the fortunes of network TV and cable, which increased 12.2 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively, in 2004. After several years of slow growth, syndicated TV showed the highest growth among media, climbing 13.7 percent.