Collectively, the top 200 advertisers in the United States spent a record $137.8 billion on advertising in 2014, up 2% year on year, according to Ad Age’s annual “200 Leading National Advertisers” report.
But while this reads like promising news for the advertising sector, the growth rate was the lowest since the ad market recovery began in 2010, according to the report, which notes that leading advertisers are striving to make their media buys more efficient.
Overall, there were 38 marketers that spent more than $1 billion on advertising in the US last year. Here are the top 10 biggest spenders:
10. WALT DISNEY COMPANY. Ad spend up 7.4% to $2.1 billion. The company spent big on marketing its box office phenomenon “Frozen” with fresh content and merchandise long after its 2013 opening.
9. L’ORÉAL: Ad spend down 2% to $2.2 billion. The report notes that many of the brands that grew the fastest for the company in 2014 actually had very low or no ad spend — such as Kiehl’s, Urban Decay, and NYX. In April, the company’s US division launched a review of all its media, with a decision expected by the end of the year.
8. FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES: Ad spend up 14% to $2.2 billion. Fiat launched a number of high-profile campaigns in 2014, including its “Fix It Again, Tony” ad (a derogatory acronym that was once widely used to describe the quality of its cars) and a big push for its Fiat 500 minicar starring Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs.
7. AMERICAN EXPRESS. Ad spend up 7.9% to $2.4 billion. Last year the company stated an intention to shift its online budget to programmatic technologies — which are potentially more efficient than direct-sales. One of its most memorable campaigns from 2014 was an ad starring Tina Fey to introduce its new EveryDay credit card.
6. FORD MOTOR COMPANY. Ad spend down 3.6% to $2.5 billion. Activity from Ford’s marketing department last year included its pre-game Super Bowl spot starring actor James Franco, and a parody of Cadillac’s ‘Poolside’ ad.
5. VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS. Ad spend up 3.6% to $2.5 billion. Last year Verizon famously launched a content marketing site called SugarString, but shuttered it just two months later. Big ads included a push for its Smart Rewards loyalty scheme and a fun spot “ice fishing gravity” spot for its XLTE service.
4. COMCAST CORPORATION. Ad spend down 1.7% to $3 billion. For Comcast, 2014 was a year marred with criticism of its customer service. Nevertheless, the company still spent big on ads in 2014, including its Star Trek-themed Super Bowl spot.
3. GENERAL MOTORS COMPANY. Ad spend down 0.7% to $3.1 billion. One of GM’s stand-out campaigns last year was a spot for its Chevrolet brand, featuring a gay couple in its TV ads for the first time. The same brand also cut a product placement deal with Disney’s Marvel Studios to feature its vehicles in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
2. AT&T. Ad spend up 0.1% to $3.3 billion. AT&T was also ranked in the top biggest b2b marketers last year (alongside Microsoft and Apple, according to AdAge.) Last year it phased out its long-running “It’s Not Complicated” campaign in favor of a new “Better Network” messaging, swapping kid brand ambassadors for geeks called “The Network Guys.”
1. PROCTER & GAMBLE. Ad spend down 4.2% to $4.6 billion. The CPG giant is also the world’s largest advertiser, although this spring the company’s CFO revealed a plan to cut spend on ad agencies by up to $500 million. The company is also shifting huge amounts of its budget to digital advertising, because it believes online ads deliver a higher return on investment than TV or print. One of its most popular campaigns of last year was its Always #LikeAGirl spot, which has been viewed on YouTube more than 58 million times.