Special Report

America's Biggest Advertisers

The 10 largest advertisers in the United States spent $26.2 billion in 2011, according to Advertising Age, an advertising trade publication. While the number is huge, it looks even larger when total spending among the top 100 advertisers is considered. The top ten accounted for more than a quarter of the $102.6 billion spent by the top 100 advertisers. Ad Age ranked the top 100 companies in terms of advertising spending in the United States. Based on the report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 largest advertisers.

The 10 biggest advertisers represent a diverse group of industries. Two are wireless companies, and two car companies, but otherwise, no two industries are the same. On the other hand, a relatively small number of industries dominate the top 100 list. Out of a total of 16 industries, four of them — cars, food and drink, the pharmaceutical industry, and retailers — represent exactly half of the top 100. There are 10 Automakers, 12 pharmaceutical companies, 12 retailers, and 16 food and drink companies.

Many of the largest industries in the country are only partially represented among the top 100. While McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM) are among the top 100 advertisers, Burger King (NYSE: BKW) and Wendy’s (NYSE: WEN) are not.

On the other hand, in several industries, every major company is among the largest advertising spenders. All four of the major wireless carriers in the U.S. are among the top 100 advertisers and three are in the top 25. With the exception of Roche, every major global pharmaceutical company is on the list.

Some industries spend much more than others. Industries like retail, food and banking are generally customer facing and consumer oriented. For these industries, advertising is essential to market to consumers.

Some of the biggest industries are not represented on this list at all. Oil and energy companies, which rely far less on traditional advertising, are not on the list. Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM), the biggest company in the world in terms of revenue, is not in the top 100. Other massive companies that are missing because their industries are not customer-facing include construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) and aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT).

Generally, spending on television and Internet increased from 2010. For all 100 advertisers, television spending increased 1.6% in 2011 to $36.2 billion, which is 35.3% of all measured paid advertising. Meanwhile, Internet spending, which is the third largest media expense at 4.5%, was up nearly 16.8% to $4.6 billion. Meanwhile, advertisers continue to moving away from traditional media. Spending in magazines was down 4.8% to $8.9 billion, while spending on newspapers advertising was down 17.3% to $4.1 billion. Combined, print now only represents 13% of total spending.

Similarly, despite growing advertising budgets at many of the companies many have chosen to reduce measured advertising spending — advertising across media platforms — and increase unmeasured advertising — such as direct marketing, social media, coupons and promotions. At 44%, unmeasured advertising represents the largest single advertising category.

Ad Age calculated each advertiser’s spending across a variety of media platforms: magazines, newspapers, outdoor, television, radio, and Internet display ads. The sum of a company’s spending across these platforms is its measured spending. However, unmeasured spending ate up a sizable portion of advertising budgets as well. Unmeasured spending is defined by Ad Age to include “direct marketing, promotion, co-ops, coupons, catalogs, product placement, events, and unmeasured forms of digital media (such as paid search and video).”

These are America’s biggest advertisers.