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Tops In 2008 Top Advertisers, Most Popular Commercials

4 minute read | December 2008

Nielsen has issued a year-end look at the most popular trends among Americans during 2008, covering everything from the top TV programs to the most popular consumer packaged goods.

Procter & Gamble was the top advertiser, spending more than $2.3 billion on traditional media advertising in the U.S. through September 30.  General Motors and AT&T rounded out the top three advertisers.

Among the year’s most-liked commercials, ads by the NFL, Budweiser, and Geico were most popular with American audiences. 

Product placements by CVS (on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”), TRESemme (on “Project Runway”), and El Pollo Loco (on “Flipping Out”) were most popular with viewers.

NBC’s “Biggest Loser” featured the greatest number of product placements (6,248 occurrences) of any broadcast TV program, through November 30.

Top 10 Advertisers – U.S. Spending – Traditional Media

RankParent CompanyAd Dollars Spent

(US $)

1Procter & Gamble Co$2,342,319,397
2General Motors Corp$1,441,747,399
3AT&T Inc$1,317,893,377
4Verizon Communications Inc$1,125,700,512
5Johnson & Johnson$1,059,109,138
6Time Warner Inc$878,355,332
7Toyota Motor Corp$819,377,026
8General Electric Co$807,869,688
9Ford Motor Co$742,708,529
10Pepsico Inc$730,503,931
Source: The Nielsen Company (January 1 – September 30, 2008).
Note: Data is based on spending estimates in the following media: Network TV, National Cable TV, Spot TV, Syndicated TV, Spanish-Language TV, Nat’l/Local Magazine, Network/Spot Radio, Outdoor, Coupons (CPGs only), Nat’l/Local Newspapers (display ads only), Nat’l/Local Sunday Supplements.

Top 10 Best-Liked TV Commercials

RankBrandAd Description




1NFLEphraim Salaam describes how Chester Pitts became an NFL player (:60)216
2BudweiserDalmatian trains Hank the Clydesdale for hitch team (:60)208
3GeicoGecko on subway train with older man (:30)192
4AMP EnergyDale Earnhardt Jr. knocks out a gorilla in different places (:30)191
5M&M’sPink peanut M&M is attacked by squirrels in park (:15)186
6BridgestoneSquirrel and other forest animals scream as car approaches (:30)185
7Lowe’sJimmie Johnson fixes things, including school bus, using Kobalt tools (:30)185
8Slim JimCouple at wedding is attacked by man’s mini evil twin (:15)181
9Bud LightBud Light is brewed to give you the ability to breath fire (:30)175
10Macy’sCelebrities read “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” (:30)170
Source: The Nielsen Company (January 1 – November 30, 2008).
*Note: Data includes primetime broadcast networks only. Only ads launching since January 1 were considered. Nielsen IAG’s panel includes viewers ages 13 and older.

Top 10 Most-Effective Product Placements (Brand Opinion)

RankBrandAd DescriptionProgram / NetworkBrand Opinion Index*
1CVS PharmacyCompany pays bills and provides supplies to familiesExtreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, 3/16 – 11/9/08)299
2TRESemmeCompany provides prize to winner; sponsor of hair salonProject Runway (Bravo, 1/2 – 10/20/08)256
3El Pollo LocoJeff and team eat lunch from fast-food restaurantFlipping Out (Bravo, 6/24 – 8/12/08)254
4Bluefly.comWinner can sell line through online retailer; sponsor of accessories wallProject Runway (Bravo, 1/2 – 10/20/08)254
5SearsRetailer provides tools, appliances and supplies for homesExtreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, 1/6 – 11/30/08)253
6GladCompany provides prize to winner; products are used during challengesTop Chef (Bravo, 3/12 – 11/28/08)251
7Whole Foods MarketContestants shop for ingredients to use in challengesTop Chef (Bravo, 3/12 – 11/28/08)248
8Food & Wine MagazineWinner will be featured in magazine and showcase food at festivalTop Chef (Bravo, 3/12 – 11/28/08)245
9GQ MagazineWinning model will receive a fashion pictorial in men’s magazineMake Me a Supermodel (Bravo, 1/10 – 4/3/08)244
10Hugo BossPatti’s clients shop with style expert at clothing storeThe Millionaire Matchmaker (Bravo, 2/12 – 4/7/08)241
Source: The Nielsen Company (January 1 – November 30, 2008).
*Note: Data includes primetime broadcast and cable networks (A&E, Bravo, Discovery, ESPN, FX, Lifetime, NAN, TBS, TLC, TNT and USA). The placements delivered the greatest percentage of viewers who both recalled and cited an improved opinion of the integrated brand. Nielsen IAG’s panel includes viewers ages 13 and older.

Top 10 Broadcast Network TV Programs – Product Placement Activity

RankProgramNetworkTotal # of

Product Placement


1Biggest LoserNBC6,248
2American IdolFOX4,636
3Extreme Makeover Home EditionABC3,371
4America’s Toughest JobsNBC2,807
5One Tree HillCW2,575
6Deal Or No DealNBC2,292
7America’s Next Top ModelCW2,241
8Last Comic StandingNBC1,993
9Kitchen NightmaresFOX1,853
10Hells KitchenFOX1,807
Source: The Nielsen Company (January 1 – November 30, 2008).

View the press release.

Relive the greatest hits of 2008 — stay tuned on Nielsen Wire for more Tops In 2008 coverage.

Look ahead to the new year with Nielsen Wire’s 2009 Industry Outlook series.

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