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What Can the Top Three U.S. Advertisers Teach Us?

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The three U.S. companies with the biggest marketing budgets also happen to sell products that have the most impact on our lives while we’re outside of our homes. Mobile communications and cars. In the past year, each of these brands tackled their challenges with decidedly different messaging. So, what would you do if you had the type of budgets these three brands commanded?

Marketing Spend: $1.59 Billion
Market Share of Wireless: 26.3%

AT&T has had a year of pulling away from its stumble with Apple iPhone coverage and the “haters” that came as a result those many years ago. So how have they chosen to put the biggest ad budget in America to use? This mobile provider had one goal in mind: To be loved.

Apparently, it’s worked and credit has been given to a campaign that has been in heavy rotation this year.

The campaign, called “It’s Not Complicated,” features actor Beck Bennett interviewing small groups of first-graders. He eggs them on to answer questions like, “What’s better, big or small?” And so it goes, to infinity and back. In fact, there are over 20 spots that have been in heavy rotation all year.

Analytics from BlueFin Labs measured consumer response and found a “likeability score” of 636, compared to an average of 577 for all commercials. Beyond that, 10% of those consumers used the word “love” (unaided) to describe how they felt about the campaign.

And, of course, nobody beats AT&T’s ability to sponsor sports of every kind. Golf, skating, soccer, football and baseball are just the beginning.

What to learn: Who can beat you up when small children are pleading your case? Especially when they’re doing it 4 to 5 times during a one-hour broadcast?

Marketing Spend: $1.43 Billion
Market Share of U.S. Wireless: 31.6%

Verizon has its fingers in a mind-boggling array of of wireless communications products and services and its agency has a penchant for creating ads that show very little brand identity. But based on the fact that Consumer Reports named it the most reliable wireless provider in late 2012, it’s been on a dominance roll in 2013.

Although the year started with a highfalutin brand ad called “Powerful Answers” that demanded a high opinion from viewers, Verizon’s brand met an image challenge due to the PRISM domestic spying scandal. But after a bump in wireless user sales from Samsung’s Galaxy S4 phones featuring a new Jay-Z album three days before its release, the brand came back strong.

Verizon’s most recent controversial broadcast ad called “48 Hours,” stars offbeat action hero from Fight Club, Ed Norton. Our star wakes up, looks at the stopwatch on his Droid Maxx phone and sees that it’s been 48 hours. What transpires is an alarming, confusing and expensive action flick that leaves not clue as to what is being advertised — until the nano-second ending flashes a Verizon logo.

What to learn: A company with market dominance in one of the most popular and growing products on earth can well afford to show some swagger and keep consumers guessing: “What’s next?”

Marketing Spend: $958 Million
Market Share of Automotive: 18%

Now that Chevrolet jumped the image hurdle from its government takeover days, they have a huge lineup of improved cars and trucks to sell so there’s a lot of advertising ground to cover in order to reach Millennials, Sports Fans and the American heartland.

One very fresh strategy Chevrolet employed to get away from their once-stodgy image was to launch their subcompact Sonic with six months of YouTube-only promotion. A popular digital video featuring a bungee-jumping car got half a million views. As a bonus, Chevy’s Facebook page allowed users hit “like” to move the car closer to jumping into a pool of water.

For its heartland and young family consumers, more traditional advertising included the use of big name music artists, connected to the cars. Country artist, Will Hoge, wrote a custom song for the Chevrolet Silverado Truck called “Strong,” and popular pop star, John Legend co-promoted his new single, “Made to Love” on Impala ads and did lots of press to express his connection to the resurgence of Detroit and the U.S. auto industry.

What to learn: Turning Titanic around takes less time when you have more money. With better technology, plenty of product and marketing dominance, you can complete the turn.

As we know, whatever amount is spent, the message has still got to deliver the goods and it’s hard to know if these three big spenders have used their money wisely or extravagantly. What do you think?


Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.

Screen captures intended as illustrative examples only. Registered trademarks and logos are the property of their respective owners.

2 comments on “What Can the Top Three U.S. Advertisers Teach Us?

  1. nofrey
    January 9, 2014

    Massive ad budgets are godsends for companies who appeal to such wide target markets.

    The brands seemed to take these budgets seriously since they carefully crafted their strategic approaches: Verizon gambled on an abstract execution to appeal to innovation seekers, yet Chevrolet spent a ton to position its brand as an advocate of the traditional. AT&T sought universal appeal by showcasing funny children.

    These examples focus on broadcast ads, which help establish brand persona. I’d be interested in seeing how these brands also spend against digital and experiential advertising to foster further engagement, trial, and conversion.


  2. Joanne
    January 8, 2014

    AT&T hits the target with its theme “It’s not complicated”. That is the key take-away for any and all advertising and marketing programs, “It should not be complicated”. You don’t have to have large budgets to produce successful campaigns. Even the smallest of budgets have produced significant successes. It’s about fully knowing your product and getting the consumer to know, use and appreciate it (in addition to relaying that they can’t live without it!). As a side note, I am one of those who “love” the AT&T commercials.


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This entry was posted on January 8, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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