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MediaRadar Credits Auto, Tech, Travel With 4% Uptick In March Ad Spending.

Advertising intelligence firm MediaRadar reports there were “notable upticks” in the ad market during March, with total ad spending in the U.S. reaching $11.3 billion across all media. That was a 4% increase from a year earlier, and a 6% gain from February’s $10.6 billion in spending. The pickup was deep, with 18 of the 27 major ad category verticals posting gains, including automotive, technology and travel.

“Advertising spend saw an uptick despite the number of companies decreasing by 9% year-over-year to 97,000, down from the 106,000 that advertised last year during March,” the update says. “Nearly 14,000 companies began advertising for the first time in March 2024, while another 27,000 expanded into new advertising media.”

MediaRadar says it recorded an increase of 14% month-over-month (MoM) in the number of companies running ads during March, while the number of products they advertised increased 13% compared to February.

MediaRadar did not release any media-specific data other than for local television, which shows a 1% drop in spending during March versus a year earlier despite political advertising dollars flowing. Spending was up 10% from February, however. The top five states, including California, Texas, Florida, New York and Ohio, captured $336 million in ad spending, which was 38% of the local television advertising total. The March 19 primary in Ohio led to local TV advertising increases in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus of 7% or more.

Seven in ten of the ad verticals tracked by MediaRadar increased ad spending in March compared to February, and to a year ago. Automotive advertisers spent an estimated $527 million, up 39% from March 2023. Most of the spending, or $445 million, was for automotive brands and models, with an estimated $132 million coming from import models, followed by $116 million in spending from SUV ads, with another $78 million in ad spending for pickup trucks. MediaRadar says GMC Sierra, Honda Automobiles, and Ford F-150 generated the most spending during March.

While make and model ads gained, MediaRadar says automotive aftermarket parts and accessory ad spending dipped 3% year-to-year to $54 million.

Tech ad spending topped $1 billion during March, as its spending jumped 6% from a year earlier, according to MediaRadar. Software brands such as Shopify, Intuit Turbo and Square drove the increase, with a third of the tech ad spending coming from software advertisers and telecommunications companies.

Among telecom advertisers, MediaRadar says Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Boost Mobile led the way, accounting for 42% of the telecom’s total $325 million in ad spending during March.

Consumer electronics ad spend reached $245 million, but it was down 8% versus a year earlier. That was despite higher spending from Dell Technologies and Samsung.

Anticipating a strong summer season, travel brands did not hold back in March. MediaRadar says they spent nearly $443 million during the month, a 14% increase from a year earlier and a 19% jump from February. The analysis shows lodging advertisers were among the biggest gainers, boosting spending 23% year-to-year led by big gains from Vrbo — which increased its March spending 89% from last year — and Airbnb.

MediaRadar also points out that tourism bureaus were also increasing their advertising levels. During March, U.S. tourism bureaus spent a combined $109 million, jumping 69% from a year earlier. It says California (Visit California and San Diego Tourism Authority) and Wyoming Tourism Bureaus were top spenders in March.

Among the softer categories during March were Media & Entertainment, Food, and Industrial Products & Services. Digging deeper, MediaRadar says Media & Entertainment was dragged down by a 16% year-to-year cut in movie ad spending, and a 6% drop in streaming service advertising. And among the food brands the analysis shows that candymakers like Ferrero Rocher and Kinder Bueno scaled back spending compared to last Easter season, while other brands like Doritos, Lindt, Lindor, Nerds, and Oreos pulled some of ad spending forward into February to appear in the Super Bowl.

Even as spending levels grew in March, MediaRadar says many marketers played it safe.

While more than 27,000 companies representing nearly 32,00 brands expanded buys into at least one new ad format in March, it was 16% fewer than last year. The ad categories most likely to be willing to test new waters were professional services, media and entertainment, and travel.

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