U.S. Advertising Expenditures increased 2.6% In Q1 2012

Total advertising expenditures in the first quarter of 2012 increased 2.6 percent from a year ago and finished the period at $32.9 billion, according to data released Kantar Media. The gain represents a modest rebound compared to flat spending in the second half of 2011.

“After a sluggish start in January, the pace of measured ad spending quickly accelerated and grew at an average rate of more than four percent during February and March, the best performance in more than a year,” said Jon Swallen, Chief Research Officer at Kantar Media North America. “Early figures from the second quarter indicate continued modest growth with improvement trickling down to media that have been lagging the overall advertising market.”

Advertising expenditures increased across every television media type in the first quarter of 2012. Sports programming was the engine behind year-over-year gains of 7.4 percent in Cable TV and 7.0 percent in Network TV spending. More than two-thirds of this dollar volume growth came from sporting events, led by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and NFL post-season games. Comparisons were helped by a calendar timing shift that moved ad money for the NCAA Final Four games out of April and into the very last day of Q1 2012.

Syndication TV budgets rose 15.7 percent and were aided by more hours of programming as well as audience ratings gains. Spot TV, benefitting from a biennial business cycle tied to political advertising and Olympics in even-number years, saw spending increase 2.5 percent versus a year ago.

Spanish Language TV expenditures were up 20.7 percent, reflecting higher automotive spending and larger allocations from a broad range of consumer packaged goods marketers. Other Spanish Language media types also posted gains, albeit from much smaller bases. Year-over-year spending in Spanish Language Magazines surged by 26.5 percent and Spanish Language Newspapers increased 4.7 percent.

Outside the Hispanic market, print media continued to lose ground. Expenditures in Consumer Magazines dropped 4.2 percent from a year ago and budgets in Sunday Magazines were off 4.6 percent due to cutbacks from auto manufacturers, food companies and prescription drug marketers. Local Newspaper ad spending fell 3.9 percent and National Newspapers declined by 7.7 percent, each hurt by substantial reductions from the financial service, travel and telecom categories. The losses in Newspaper spending were consistent with reductions in the amount of space sold.

Within the universe of 2,811 Internet sites that Kantar Media measured for at least a full year, display expenditures fell 4.1 percent during Q1. The overall spending reduction was primarily attributable to fewer display ads appearing on the average web page, with some offset from higher average CPMs. There was also a sharp split between popular, high-traffic sites, where spending was close to flat year-over-year, and the many small, long-tail sites, which saw an aggregate percentage decline in the mid-teens.

Outdoor advertising investments rose 4.6 percent, the eighth consecutive quarter of year-over-year increases. Higher spending from core categories including Local Services, Retail and Restaurants were a prime catalyst.

Spending among the ten largest advertisers in the opening quarter of 2012 was $3,922.3 million, a 5.5 percent decline compared to a year ago. Among the Top 100 marketers, a diversified group accounting for more than two-fifths of all measured ad expenditures, budgets climbed 3.4 percent.

Procter & Gamble was the top-ranked advertiser with spending of $685.0 million, down 4.7 percent. The decline comes against the backdrop of a Q1 announcement by P&G that it plans to tighten the reins on marketing budgets and shift more money out of traditional media.

Comcast was the second largest spender during the period with outlays of $482.7 million, an increase of 4.3 percent that was propelled by the ongoing rollout of its Xfinity service. In contrast, media expenditures at rival telecom companies fell sharply. AT&T slashed its spending by 31.6 percent, to $388.9 million, as the company deferred budgets to support an upcoming marketing push timed to the Summer Olympics. Verizon Communications trimmed its expenditures by 9.2 percent to $358.6 million.

Only two automotive advertisers landed in the Top Ten. General Motors reduced spending by 17.8 percent to $403.3 million, the seventh consecutive quarterly decline for the automaker. Toyota Motor spent $327.8 million, an increase of 8.6 percent.

News Corp registered the largest percent gain among the Top Ten as budgets jumped 24.9 percent to $357.5 million. Time Warner also had a healthy gain as its quarterly spending reached $301.5 million, up 9.0 percent. Results for both companies were shaped by their movie studio divisions.

Automotive was the top category with $3,528.9 million of spending, down 1.5 percent. Manufacturer budgets contracted by 6.9 percent primarily because there were fewer marketing launches in 2012 to provide impetus for higher budget levels. Dealer spending remained robust with a gain of 8.7 percent amidst a strong retail sales climate.

Retail was the second largest category by dollar volume with media investments of $3,373.5 million, up 8.6 percent. The department store segment was especially strong, spurred by a significant repositioning campaign from JC Penney which in turn prompted most rival brands to increase their own budgets.(Note: The definition of “Retail” has changed from prior reports, It was previously split into three segments for reporting. It is now being reported as a combined aggregate.)

Financial Services posted the highest rate of growth among the Top Ten categories, a 10.1 percent increase to $2,120.6 million. Fierce competition among credit card issuers, revitalized marketing programs for retirement planning services and higher budgets from tax preparation firms were the growth drivers.

Expenditures for Personal Care Products rose 4.8 percent to $1,476.6 million and the Restaurant category boosted its spending by 3.7 percent to $1,523.0 million.

Telecom advertising remained soft during the quarter and finished 2.8 percent lower at $2,102.6 million. Sharp budget reductions from wireless carriers were only partially offset by increases from TV service providers and mobile device manufacturers.’

The ten largest Network TV advertisers spent $1,277.5 million on the medium during the quarter, up 4.4 percent from a year ago.

The ten largest Cable TV advertisers invested a total of $861.5 million in the medium during Q1, up 1.8 percent from a year ago. Only four of these companies were also top ten Network TV advertisers.

The top ten internet display advertisers of Q1 2012 invested $464.8 million in the medium, an increase of 13.7 percent. Telecom and financial service companies dominate the list.

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