Advertising & Public Relations: Ad spending (expenditures)

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About ad spending

Ad Expenditures wordleAdvertising expenditures, media expenditures,
advertising spending, ad spend, or even "adspend" ...

These are all phrases used to answer the question:

How much did Company X pay for advertising?


Below are several sources you can use where you will more consistently find some data on ad spending; these sources are best for snapshot data, not for time series.
(See here for suggestions on finding time series data.)

Please be aware that ad spending is often not disclosed in any detail:  only public companies are required to do so, and only under certain circumstances (ad spend greater than a certain percentage of total revenues).  Companies get to choose how much detail they'll disclose, and some companies regard this as proprietary information, i.e. not for the public!

However, there is a database that provides estimates on advertising expenditures within a defined universe of consumer media:  below you can read more about the Ad$pender database.

In addition to the sources below, there are several trade journals that regularly report on ad spending, or compile lists of top advertisers.  They're listed in the next box.

Ad spending - an easier source

Trade journals

Here are a few journals which regularly report on trends in ad spending:  you'll also find occasional articles in many others.  To do a more systematic and thorough search, use the trade journal databases.

International country ad spend

To find out what ad spending is in a given country, try Passport GMID.  (In other words, to find out what is the size of the advertising market in a given country.)  They'll have data for many countries (for some going back to 1983), for print, radio, TV, outdoor, cinema, and online advertising.  (It's obvious, right, that the data for online advertising does not go back to 1983?!?  That starts in the late 1990's, and primarily for developed countries.)

By the way, it's called 'adspend' in this database!

Ad$pender - a harder source

Kantar Media (formerly Competitive Media Reporting) monitors advertising that is placed in certain consumer media, and then estimates the amounts spent.  You can extract data by company, product, or brand; and the data are available monthly, quarterly, and annually.  Please note the following limitations:

  • The data are not comprehensive.  Ad$pender monitors a defined 'universe' of consumer media only.  (~200 consumer magazines, ~200 newspapers, x TV stations, x radio stations, etc.)
  • The data are estimated.  Once the producer of Ad$pender has calculated how much advertising time (space) has been used, they estimate the cost of that time/space based on "off-the-shelf" and confidential advertising prices

Ad$pender - "Create report" tips

There is a user manual available (the PDF document linked after the database name), but it is very long and detailed!  Below are shorter instructions to get you started:

From the Ad$pender homepage, under Custom Reports, click "create".  This opens a 6-step worksheet that walks you through setting up a report.

  1. Media.  Choose which media you want data for.  Highlight and click the right arrow to select.
  2. Time period.  First click the "Show Data Availability" button:  This tells you the dates for the latest available data, which vary by media channel.  With that information, make your selections.
  3. Product set.  Things to know:
    • Be aware that products are listed in order by classification code, not alphabetically!  
    • Search drop-down menu.  Here you can see the hierarchical levels of the classification scheme from broad to narrow (global product groups to microcategories for product categories; ultimate owner to products for brands/products). 
    • "Show all" button versus "Search" button:  You can browse by clicking the Show all button. Keyword searching works well IF you already know the terminology used in the classification scheme! 
    1. When just beginning, start near the top of the classification hierarchy (for example, with industry), and click Show All. Then you can find the base classification code (1 letter, 1 digit; e.g. F2) you'll need when browsing in the narrower levels of the scheme.
    2. Change the search drop-down menu to Categories or subcategories and click Show All again to get more detailed product choices.
    3. Make your selections.
  4. Report format:  pick what works for you.
  5. Report options:  at least increase the font size?
  6. Run report:  this will take a minute or several minutes, depending on how many variables you’ve selected.