What T-Mobile and AT&T Spend Online

Mobile phone carriers are among the biggest online advertisers, and the planned acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T has many wondering what the ad spending impact of the deal will be.

AT&T announced yesterday it agreed to buy T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion; the deal is still subject to federal approval.

Both spend millions online annually, according to Kantar Media. The company estimates T-Mobile spent around $53.8 million on U.S. online display advertising last year. AT&T plunked down around twice that much on U.S. display ads in 2010 – $102.8 million. That represented around 5 percent of AT&T’s overall 2010 ad pie, compared to 73 percent spent on national and spot TV.

Those numbers do not take into consideration search advertising, a key element of the direct-response marketing strategies of wireless carriers pitching deals on plans and devices to consumers.

While it is unclear whether the combined companies will alter current online ad spending strategies, it can be expected. At this point, the fate of the T-Mobile brand – and thus, the need to advertise T-Mobile and its products separately from AT&T – remains to be seen. AT&T may look to streamline ad efforts of both carriers, which might result in more efficient and less expensive online ad buys.

According to Kantar, T-Mobile boosted its online display ad spending significantly between 2009 and 2010. It spent $37.4 million in ’09, and increased that number to $53.8 million last year:

T-Mobile Online Display Ad Spending
Annual in Millions, 2006-2010
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
$35m $29m $39.3m $37.4m $53.8m
Data provided by Kantar Media, 2011

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