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Google’s Top Search Advertisers

The biggest chunk of Google’s revenue, search advertising, continues to be dominated by the titans of direct response: Wireless carriers, ecommerce sites, travel and financial services. IAC (,, Citysearch, etc) was the #1 search buyer in the first 9 months of 2011. Microsoft, General Motors, Avis and Enterprise also make the top 20.

Kantar Media data as reported on Ad Age. Above chart from Business Insider.

200 Brands With the Largest Ad Budgets

Would you have guessed that Chevy spends more than Ford or Toyota? Or that Macy’s spends more than Target? Other rankings that surprised me: Arm & Hammer spends more than Gatorade, Kia spends more than Volkswagen, and Ashley Furniture spends more than Ikea.

Check out this great infographic that ranks the top 200 brands by the size of their 2009 and 2010 ad budgets.

Top Auto Ad Spenders

The top two in each category (first, second):

Auto: Chevy, Ford
Retail: Walmart, Macy’s
Apparel: Skechers, Nike
Telecom: AT&T, Verizon
Restaurants: McDonald’s, Subway
Food and Beverage: Coke, Campbell
Beer: Budweiser, Miller
Cleaning Products: Tide, Clorox
Financial Services: American Express, Chase
Beauty and Personal Care: L’Oreal Paris, Olay
Insurance: Geico, Progressive
Consumer Electronics: Microsoft, Apple
Media: DirecTV, Dish Network
Drugs: Lipitor, Cialis

How Do You Feel About the Sponsor That Brings You Free Wifi When the Wifi Doesn’t Work?

No Connection, Brought to You By Today's Sponsor ATT

I love the concept and the crew at Jiwire, the company that offers free wifi in airports, hotels and other public spaces — if you’re willing to first watch the sponsor’s commercial. But just now at Denver International Airport, the service managed enough bandwidth to show me AT&T’s ad but not enough to open a webpage or pull down my email. After clicking a button to say I was willing to watch AT&T’s commercial, and then looking at their banner for 30 seconds while I waited for my connection, I’d say they succeeded in making an impression on me. But it wasn’t exactly a good one.

Does that matter? I mean, here I am banging out a post with AT&T’s name all over it. Did the ad work, since I noticed it, or fail, since I’m feeling kind of annoyed at AT&T right now?

(Note: I’m currently connected by way of AT&T’s Personal Hotspot plan on my cellphone. So they came through for me in the end. But I still feel cheated. They offered up a deal — my time in exchange for a quick, free internet connection. I did my part, and then they skipped out on their side of the bargain.)

Google Inserts Ads in iPhone Maps

Google has been inserting ads in iPhone maps for a few months. I spotted my first one yesterday.

Google Ad in iPhone Map

I’m guessing I should blame ATT for the frozen incomplete map above (it never loaded more that this), but I was annoyed that delivering the ad got higher priority than delivering my map. And for that I blame Google and Apple. Perhaps the map failure had nothing to do with the extra load of serving ads — but until the mobile map feature is highly reliable in San Francisco, Google and Apple should sequence the serve calls so that the ads load only after the map loads.

On the relevance front, I’ll give Google a C+. True, I was driving a car across the SOMA district of San Francisco, where Firestone Complete Auto is located. But I gave Google a few hints that I wasn’t on the market for automotive service at the time, and it ignored them. First, I didn’t search for automotive service. Second, I did search for a driving directions for a business a few miles from my current location — which suggests my car was running fine at the time.

Google's Biggest Advertisers in June 2010 (And What They Tell Us About Online Media)

Top 10 Google Advertisers June 2010

Hats off to Michael Learmonth at Ad Age for getting his hands on this sensitive document!

“While the search-spending document obtained by Advertising Age is not a complete list of advertisers on Google, the accuracy of its data was verified by multiple sources with direct knowledge of spending levels. It’s a revealing cross-section of Google’s business that gives some clarity to one of the most opaque areas of ad spending, and the lifeblood of many American businesses. “

Two noteworthy items in this story.

One, Google’s revenues are well distributed: Its top 10 advertisers (in June, anyway) represent only 5% of its total revenue. While 47 advertisers spent more than $1 million in the month, another 71 spent between $500,000 and $1 million, and other 357 spent between $100,000 and $500,000.

Two, Google’s revenues — which represents around half of all online ad spending — continue to skew heavily toward direct-response advertising versus brand advertising. Google’s top 10 includes University of Phoenix parent Apollo Group, Expedia, Amazon, eBay, and Living Social. Compare that to the list of top 10 US advertising spenders across all media:

Top 10 Advertisers Across All Media

Outside of AT&T, they are entirely different lists. At this point in the history of the Internet, it’s hard to argue that the big brands haven’t yet gotten hip to the crazy new technology. The only reasonable explanation is this: The giants of ad-supported online media — portals, publishers and social media platforms — are not offering solutions that do the stuff of brand marketing. Nobody beats search and behavioral targeting when it comes to serving up a coupon when we’re hunting for a product. But clearly the big spenders on the brand side aren’t convinced online ads can turn us on to a new shampoo or shaver, or convince us to walk into a dealership when our old car is still running fine.