There Were Two Glaring Omissions from AdAge’s “Top 100” LNA List

7 Aug

the white houseAs you know, Advertising Age publishes a list of leading National advertisers (LNA) based upon their annual U.S. advertising spending levels.  In reviewing the publication’s most recent “Top 100” LNA list, it occurred to me that there were two well known, billion dollar plus advertisers who should be recognized based upon the size of their U.S. advertising investment.  Intrigued?  Perhaps you have already ventured a guess as to the identity of these two “Leading National Advertisers?”  Without any further intrigue, when these two advertisers are incorporated into the LNA list, the rankings would look this:

  1. P&G ($4.18b)
  2. Verizon Communications ($3.02b)
  3. AT&T ($2.79b)
  4. Presidential Candidates ($2.51b)*
  5. GM ($2.20b)
  6. Pfizer ($2.10b)
  7. Johnson & Johnson ($2.06b)
  8. Walt Disney ($2.00b)
  9.  Time Warner  ($1.85b)   
  10. L’Oreal ($1.83b)
  11. Kraft ($1.75b)     

*Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, Smart Media Group, Federal Election Commission 

That is correct, based on current projections, Mitt Romney will spend $1.35 billion and President Obama $1.16 billion on their respective runs for the White House.  Looked at another way, they will each spend more than top brands such as Chevrolet at $923 million, Lipitor at $247 million or Cover Girl at $205 million.  Further, projected total spending for all Federal election campaigns in 2012 is $5.8 billion… a staggering amount of money by any measure. 

What lessons can be gleaned from a political process where a sitting president must spend over $1.0 billion on a re-election campaign rather than running on the merits of their first-term job performance?  What can marketers learn about the viability of negative advertising in trying to build their brand by deriding the competition?  How does the market benefit from the lack of transparency which shrouds a Political Action Committee’s source of funds?  Admittedly, there is probably little in the way of practical insight that one could take away from political campaigns that would be of any value to marketing, financial, procurement or audit professionals. 

Political positions aside, the infusion of federal campaign spending has been a boon for the U.S. advertising market, with expenditures having grown 87.1% since 2000.  Who benefits?  Media property owners, ad agencies, PR firms, digital marketing shops, consumer research organizations and tchotchke manufacturers to name a few segments of the marketing world that participate in this “every-four-year” bonanza. 

In light of the largesse of politics as a force within the marketing world, it caused this marketing professional to ponder on a few topics: 

  • Are President Obama or Mitt Romney members of the ANA?
  • Do the campaigns conduct media post-buy analysis?
  • Do they conduct 3rd party vendor billing reconciliations?
  • What are the campaign’s days-payable-outstanding vendor payment averages?
  • Are agency employees who work on campaigns required to fill out time sheets?
  • Are the campaigns marketing services firms required to complete “non-disclosure/ non-compete” forms? 

Idle musings of a contract compliance auditor to be sure. 

One can certainly debate the need for political spending reform, the resulting impact on the electorate or the need for tighter regulatory oversight on campaign funding sources or message accuracy.  However, there is no debate about the positive impact federal election campaigns have on the U.S. media market.  From a marketing perspective, when it comes to political spending, if a little is good, more is certainly better, or as John Quinton so aptly said: 

Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.

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