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Walmart leads in holiday ad spend but Amazon coming up fast

BY Marianne Wilson

Amazon is doubling down on national TV ads even as Walmart and Target are cutting back.

Retail advertisers spent $629 million on national TV ads from Oct. 29 to Nov. 25, 2018 – down 4% compared to the similar period last year – with Walmart leading the way. That’s according to an analysis of ad spend, including spend on Facebook and paid search, conducted by Kantar Media. Overall, the top 10 retailers accounted for 58% of total national TV spending during this time.

Looking at the top 10 retail advertisers through Nov. 26, which includes Cyber Monday, year-over-year fluctuations were seen across the board. Walmart and Target, who consistently rank as the leading advertisers during the season, currently hold steady at the top, with an ad spend of $63 million and $60 million respectively. But they have both made significant cuts to their national TV budgets so far this season.

Conversely, Amazon has been increasing its TV advertising in recent years and is placing a much bigger emphasis on this channel in 2018, with expenditures almost quadrupling during the measured period. However, with a $35 million spend, it still lags far behind Walmart and Target.

Here’s a look at the retail ad spend (Oct. 29 – Nov. 29) from Kantar Media:

In other findings from Kantar Media:

CyberMonday: Black Friday isn’t the only victim of a decline in messaging. In 2018, retailers only spent $9 million on Cyber Monday ad messages on TV – and the money came from just 11 advertisers. This is compared to $19 million from 12 advertisers in 2017.

There are a number of possible reasons behind the lack of emphasis on specific shopping days, according to Kantar. Retailers are now often offering discounts both before and after Black Friday, creating less urgency around Black Friday on all sides. Meanwhile, high levels of fast internet access mean that consumers no longer need to wait for Cyber Monday to catch online deals.

Increasingly, advised Kantar Retail, retailers need to maintain wallet share not just during Black Friday but throughout the entire holiday season, a particular challenge during a year like this one where Thanksgiving has fallen much earlier than usual.

Facebook: According to Facebook, users are spending an estimated 950 million hours on the platform each day, making it another critical platform for driving holiday shopping. Through a partnership with Pathmatics, Kantar examined how the top holiday retail advertisers are also using Facebook this holiday season to complement their broader campaigns. Overall, the top 10 retail advertisers spent an additional $44 million on Facebook from October 29-November 26.

Walmart was top ad spender on Facebook, spending $12 million during the October – November period, followed by Target and Home Depot (both at $8 million), Amazon ($6 million) and Kohl’s and Macy’s (both at $3 million).

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