US Ad Spend Up 7% in Q3, as TV Rakes in P&O Dollars

December 13, 2012

US ad spend grew 7% year-over-year in Q3, finds Nielsen, basing its analysis on spending across TV, magazine, newspaper, radio, outdoor, FSI coupon, and internet display media. The automotive sector shelled out $2.7 billion for the quarter, a 26% year-over-year increase, and more than double the outlay of the next-largest spenders, quick service restaurants ($1 billion; up 14%), and automotive dealerships ($1 billion; up 22%).

Nielsen attributes the overall growth to the Summer Olympic Games and US presidential election, and it appears that TV was a prime beneficiary of that spend. In fact, political advertising on TV grew to such an extent in Q3 that many non-political media buyers were waiting until after the election to resume their TV campaigns. The latest figures from Nielsen, as reported by Adweek, assign some numbers to TV’s big third quarter.

Specifically, broadcast TV saw an impressive 35% year-over-year hike in ad spend, passing $5.33 billion for the quarter, thanks in part to NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. But even with that big jump, broadcast nets still trailed ad-supported cable networks, which saw $5.55 billion in sales. That represented only marginal 1% growth from 2011.

Spanish-language and syndicated TV continued to be strong movers, with the former up 8% to $1.1 billion and the latter growing 15% to roughly $650 million.

A detailed look at US TV advertising spending trends and purchase influence can be found here.

TV Still the Video Ad Medium of Choice

Recent research from FreeWheel has shown that advertiser demand for online video is growing, and new data from Kantar Media supports brand interest in this medium. Still, TV is by far the more popular video advertising channel for brands.

Looking at ads appearing on national TV and leading online video sites during October, Kantar Media found that 12% of the more than 4,100 brands advertising through either channel used both. Of the remainder, 11% used online video exclusively, while 77% used TV exclusively. Overall, then, while online video has seen its share of growth, the proportion of brands leveraging that channel pales in comparison to those using TV (23% vs. 89%).

TV Ads Go Viral

TV advertising has a positive outlook, and brands may see benefits from an unexpected source, argues Initiative [pdf] in a December study. As part of its study, Initiative surveyed 8,000 TV and internet users aged 16-54 from 8 countries, finding that social media is “revitalizing” TV. Among the respondents, Initiative identified a subset of “TV Talkers,” who comprised 22% of the sample, and who are highly engaged in pop culture (particularly in TV), and who post, blog, or tweet about their favorite shows online at least once a week.

Significantly, across the 8 markets studied, a minimum of 71% and maximum of 90% (87% in the US) of these TV Talkers said that if they see an ad they like they always mention it to their friends. And among these TV Talkers who talk about TV ads, 58% post about brand ads at least once a week, and 27% post about brand ads every day. What that all boils down to: somewhere around 1 in 10 TV and web users surveyed are posting about brand ads at least once a week.

Other Findings:

  • The pharmaceutical sector, the 7th-largest advertising vertical in the US, cut spending by 22% in Q3, per Nielsen.
  • 6 of the top 20 advertising spenders in Q3 were auto manufacturers.
  • According to Kantar Media, among the industries tracked that used both national TV and online video advertising during October, restaurant (43%) and automotive (30%) brands had the highest incidence of doing so.
  • Internet communications and content companies (39%) and travel companies (28%) were the most likely to use just online video advertising.
  • The Initiative survey also found that 54% of all TV viewers talk about TV shows online.

About the Data: Nielsen’s ad spend figures include expenditures across 17 media grouped as follows:

· Television (Network, Cable, Syndication, Spot, Spanish Lang Network, Spanish Lang. Cable)
· Magazine (National, Local Magazine)
· Newspaper (National Newspaper, National Sunday Supp, Local Newspaper, Local Sunday Supp)
· Radio (Network, Spot Radio)
· Outdoor
· FSI Coupon
· National Internet (Display only; Excludes the following sites in the total expenditure ”“,,, Yahoo! Mail)

Data excludes Promos/PSA & Local Avails. Direct Response is included in all spend.

The countries included in the Initiative survey were: Argentina; Australia; Canada; China; Germany; the Netherlands; the US; and the UK. Interlocking age/gender and regional quotas were set to reflect the national population in each country. The only significant exception is China, where the focus was on Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

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