McDonald's spent more than $988 million on advertising in 2013

$988 million could buy a lot of McChickens, as well as a lot of customers. Restaurant ad spending overall was up 5.2 percent last year, the highest jump of any industry.

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
A McDonald's marquis is illuminated in New York's Times Square. Restaurant ad spending was up 5.2 percent in 2013, and McDonald's led the spending charge.

For the third consecutive year, restaurant advertising spending increased sharply more than total U.S. ad spending (see chart). Restaurants spent $6.449 billion on measured media (TV, magazines, newspapers, Internet display ads, radio, outdoor boards and free-standing inserts), a 5.2% increase over 2012 spending, according to data from Kantar Media.

Significantly, that 5.2% is significantly greater than last year’s 2.9% increase in ad spending by the restaurant category’s largest single advertiser, McDonald’s Corp. The $988 million it spent accounted for 15.3% of total 2013 restaurant advertising dollars.

Total U.S. ad spending rose just 0.9% to $140.2 billion last year. The lack of Olympic and political spending during the year limited growth, Kantar reported. It noted that the largest 1,000 advertisers as a group are spending more while smaller companies sharply cut back spending last year.

Total ad spending during 2013’s Q4 was positive (+1.6%) during what was a very volatile year. Total ad spending declined 0.1% in Q1, jumped up 3.5% in Q2 and then fell 1.9% in Q3. Restaurant ad spending had declined 3.6% in Q3, falling farther than overall spending, before bouncing back in Q4.

Although restaurants spent roughly $17.7 million on advertising per day in 2013, the category ranked 8th among advertisers. And its 5.2% increase was not the largest. Ad spending in the telecom category was up 8.2% in 2013; the insurance category was up 8.1%. The largest decline was the 11.4% drop by direct-response companies.  Ad spending also declined (-4.1%) in the financial services category.

Among media, the largest gain in spending was in Internet display ads (15.7%) while network radio showed the largest decline (-15.9%). Spending on cable TV was up 7.3%; spending on network and spot TV was down. Newspapers continued to slide, down 3.7% for the year.

McDonald’s $988 million in 2013 advertising –or $2.7 million a day–compares with $960 million spent in 2012, according Kantar Media data. McDonald’s remains by far the category’s biggest spender. It helped increase Q4 restaurant spending with heavy lobbying for its Dollar Menu & More.

Other Q4 restaurant advertising highlights were Wendy’s backing of its Pretzel Pub Chicken and Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche burgers; Burger King’s introduction of Satisfries and its Big King; Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s promotion of freshly baked buns for premium burgers; Jack in the Box’s tandem introductions of its Jalapeňo BBQ Burger and Fajita Ranch Melt sandwiches; and Sonic’s Island Fire Spicy Chicken line.

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