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Amazon Leads Tech Giant TV Ad Spending… and it’s Not Even Close

Following earnings announcements for five of the United States’ tech giants — Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — it’s worth looking into which have been emphasizing TV advertising over the first six months or so of 2019.

Using data from always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, we looked at impressions, airings and estimated spend for each company from January 1-July 15, 2019. Along with totals for each of the five companies above, we were able to break out individual brands under each parent company to see new (or old) avenues they may be advertising.

First up: Apple

Of the five giants, Apple spent the second-most (an estimated $293.9 million in the timeframe), but aired the fourth-most ads at 11,077. The reason for the discrepancy? An emphasis on premium, popular programming.

Over two-thirds — nearly $200 million — of Apple’s ad spend went toward the iPhone, and of that number, nearly $77 million was allocated just three programs: NFL football ($28.5 million), the NCAA Tournament ($27.5 million) and the NBA Finals ($20.6 million). The four programs with the highest spend were all sports, and iPhone ads also appeared during the Oscars, the Voice, the Big Bang Theory, the Walking Dead and SportsCenter.

The Apple iPad ($26.4 million), Apple Watch ($21.5 million) and Apple Mac ($20.6 million) were the next-highest estimated spends. Highlighting the company’s recent emphasis on privacy, the most-seen ad in the timeframe was “Private Side,” with nearly 1.3 billion impressions.

Alphabet (Google)

Unlike Apple, Google emphasized itself as name brand with advertising in the early parts of 2019. Google spent an estimated $77.9 billion on spots for Google generally, $20 million more than it spent on the next-highest name, Google Phones. Both far outpaced the rest of Google’s spending by product name, with Chromebook ($30.7 million), Nest ($24.4 million) and YouTube TV ($19.4 million) next up. In total, Alphabet spent an estimated $251.4 million on 20,757 airings against over 12.1 billion impressions.

And while the biggest spend was on standalone “Google,” that number didn’t equal the most airings among its own products either. Similar to the strategy Apple endorses above, Google opted for big audiences there. The graph below shows how nearly half of the spend was put toward events like the NCAA Tournament, Super Bowl and the Oscars.

And even though the most ad dollars weren’t put toward Chromebook, it wound up airing the Google ad with the most impressions. “If You Want a Laptop You Can Count On” had over 916 million impressions, though those were split across quite a few different shows (led by Good Morning America).

Amazon

We discussed Amazon’s strategy around Prime Day last week in this space, and as mentioned, it’s indicative of Amazon’s approach to the entire year of television advertising. Amazon Prime and Echo lead the way with over $75 million apiece spent on them, but there’s also plenty of budget toward Prime Video ($63.5 million) and Amazon $61.8 million) as well.

As you could’ve guessed from the headline of this article, Amazon’s overall spending is far beyond that of the other four companies in question. Amazon spent $434.8 million on TV ads through July 15 of this year, making for 24.97 billion impressions on 95.907 airings. The airings number is almost twice that of the other four companies combined.

Echo advertising focused on NFL football, the NBA Finals and MTV’s Ridiculousness to find its audiences, while Prime honed in on the Walking Dead and shows like South Park and Family Guy — along with the NBA Finals and Ridiculousness. Despite what appears to be a male-skewed audience for both products, however, it was actually split about 50/50 between men and women.

The same idea held true for Amazon and Prime Video advertising, which targeted a lot of big sporting events like the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and NCAA Tournament (among others), but still wound up with a fairly even split when looking at impressions.

Facebook

Facebook spent the least of the tech giants, at just an estimated $65 million. Most of that number went toward general Facebook TV ads ($34.2 million), but the company also put spend toward Portal ($24.6 million) and Watch ($6.2 million).

The approach for both Facebook and Portal looked pretty similar: An emphasis on the 35-54 age demographic, and both appeared during major shows. Portal emphasized big TV events like the NBA Finals and American Idol a bit more, while Facebook opted more for late night and morning shows. But each provided different paths to the same general audience.

Across Facebook, Portal and Watch, the company had 3.17 billion impressions, against 6.338 airings. The most-watch ad by airings was, by far, a Facebook Groups ad which tallied over 1.3 billion impressions while airing largely around Father’s Day.

Microsoft

Last but not least was Microsoft, which had the fourth-highest spend amount ($171 million) but just missed out on the second-most airings of the five companies. Two thirds of the company’s spend went toward the Microsoft Surface which collected nearly 4.8 billion impressions in the timeframe with a number of different ads largely geared toward business sensibilities.

The ad placement for Microsoft wasn’t much different from the other four, with appearances during NFL football games, the NBA Finals, NHL hockey and Today 1. Almost a quarter of Microsoft Surface ad impressions came on NBC — a number attributable to playoff football, hockey and Jimmy Fallon.

Xbox advertising was even heavier on sports audiences, with spots appearing during the NBA Finals, college basketball games, SportsCenter and the Super Bowl (among other athletic events). ESPN made for over a quarter of all Xbox ad impressions, and combined with TNT and the Paramount Network to total almost 50% of Xbox impressions. As a result of that, plus high impressions numbers on Adult Swim and Comedy Central as well, Xbox’s audience skewed over 59% male.