In the forty-seven years that US ad bible Advertising Age has been ranking the nation’s top hundred advertisers, only two years have seen negative ad growth - 1991 and 2001. In 1991 adspend slumped by 3.9%; in 2001 it slipped below 2000 by a more modest 1.3% to a total of $80.94 billion (€82.9bn; £52.9bn).

In its review of the period 1954-2001 AdAge notes that both years of negative growth were marked by war and recession. Of the top hundred advertisers in 1991, fifty-nine reduced their spend in that year; in 2001 only 46 did so.

In 2001 General Motors topped the expenditure league, at the same time recording the biggest decline in adspend – by 14.5% ($571 million) to $3.37bn. The nation’s number two advertiser, Procter & Gamble also tightened its ad pursestrings, reducing spend by 2.8% to $2.54bn.

It is notable, however, that P&G upped spend in support of its 45 core brands – all investing upward of $10m in measured media. Likewise a total of 529 brands marketed by the high spending hundred were backed by media spends of $10m-plus.

The top ten crème de la crème were as follows (figures in parentheses indicate ranking in 2000; in square brackets the percentage increase/decrease in spend) …

1. (1) General Motors $3,374.4m [-14.5%]

2. (2) Procter & Gamble $2,540.6m [-2.8%]

3. (3) Ford Motor Company $2,408.2m [+2.7%]

4. (6) PepsiCo $2,210.4m [+4.5%]

5. (4) Pfizer $2,189.5m [-3%]

6. (5) DaimlerChrysler $1,985.3m [-8.2%]

7. (9) AOL Time Warner $1,885.3m [+6.2%]

8. (7) Philip Morris $1,815.7m [-7.7%]

9. (8) Walt Disney $1,757.3m [-3.4%]

10. (10) Johnson & Johnson $1,618.1 [+1%]

(The complete report can be downloaded from AdAge).

Non-media forms of advertising and marketing – among them direct marketing, sales promotion, telemarketing and event marketing – increased 3.6% to $37.95 billion among the elite one hundred, underscoring yet again the marketing maxim that in tough times budgets are best switched from measured media to less costly tactical channels.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff