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Big Ad Spend Listers and No Shows on Brand Power Lists

by Frank Strong

Advertising Megabrands, content marketing

Does spending more on advertising translate into brand power?

Advertising Age released an infographic this week showcasing the America’s 25 biggest advertisers and the first thing I noticed was which brands were not on the list.

For example, where is Coca-Cola?  This legendary software maker — the undisputed market leader in their category of products — and an iconic brand with a history of equally iconic advertising wasn’t on the list (Coke was the Cannes advertiser of the year this year).

These  “megabrands,” as AdAge calls them, are ranked based on dollars spent on paid media.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Dollars spent on paid media, which means the ranking is not based on results.  It’s not based on leads, sales, customer retention, market share gained or even market research benchmarking awareness, resonance or message penetration.  It’s how much they spend.

Who spends the most? AT&T topped the list:

For AT&T, the 2012 spending tally added up to $1.59 billion in measured media, making it the nation’s most-advertised brand, according to Ad Age DataCenter’s analysis of spending data from WPP’s Kantar Media.

And that’s what got me to thinking — so what? Whether spending on credit or cash, does writing big checks make a brand better?

It’s doubtful.

Forbes’ Most Powerful Brands vs. AdAge’s Big Spenders

Enter the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful Brands, of which there are 100 and are determined “based on their financial metrics.” It seems how much a brand spends on advertising isn’t one of those financial metrics because while AT&T tops AdAge’s chart for ad spend, it tumbles twenty rungs to #21 on Forbes’  power list.

Ah, you say, but your comparing America’s top spenders to the most powerful brands in the world.  Except, with a few exceptions,  most of those brands are American.

Further, on the flip side, Apple tops Forbes’ list as the as the most powerful brand in the world and yet makes no appearance on AdAge’s list.

In fact just six of the 25 brands of AdAge’s biggest advertisers list make the top 25 brands on Forbes’ most powerful brands. Some brands like Geico, State Farm and JC Penny, spend a boatload of dollars on advertising and don’t appear anywhere in Forbes’ top 100.

What other brands are powerful, but didn’t make AdAge’s big spenders list besides Apple and Coca-Cola?  Brands including IBM, Google, Intel, GE, BMW, Cisco, Oracle, Samsung, Disney, HP, Mercedes, Louis Vuitton, Gillette, Honda, Nokia, Nike, and Pepsi.

The world’s most powerful brands aren’t leading in terms of advertising spend and the brands that are leading in advertising spend are…well…leading in advertising spend.

As for Coca-Cola, I think they can bow gracefully and be silently grateful they weren’t on AdAge’s list.  Or they could write about it. After all the company turned it’s home page into a magazine this year.

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