Sainsbury's dropped its budget by almost as much, cutting its spend 28.5% to £7.3m.
Aldi, Iceland and Co-operative were the only top 10 supermarkets to see year-on-year hikes in ad spend for the Christmas build-up, with the German discounter’s budget up 3.5% to £10.5m.
Iceland saw the biggest increase at 74.2% to £7.1m and Co-operative’s spend was up 24.6% to £1.3m. Aldi rival Lidl cut spend by 10.5% to £7m.
The Nielsen data - which has been shared exclusively with Marketing and covers TV, press and radio ad spend - compares this year’s data with the four weeks ending 7 December 2014.
Asda cut its spend by 10% to £9.5m, while Morrisons' budget fell 11.8% year on year to £8.3m. Waitrose’s advertising spend remained flat, down a marginal 1% (taking inflation into consideration) to £4.7m.
Overall the top 10 saw traditional ad spend fall 8.6% to £71m, from £77.6m last year, fuelled mostly by Sainsbury's and Tesco's sizeable declines.
Targeting last-minute shoppers
Nielsen said that the fall in ad spend was due to two forces.
Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: "The drop is primarily down to press advertising - down 31%, whilst radio was up 8% and TV was up 4%.
"Also, it could be because supermarkets are leaving their advertising later to reflect the fact that consumers are doing their shopping later. This year, 60% are planning to do their main grocery shop in the week before Christmas."
Elsewhere, Marks & Spencer cut its ad spend by 14.3% to £8.4m, although these figures relate to non-food related marketing, so it is not directly comparable to the other retailers in Nielsen’s research.
German upstarts Aldi and Lidl are going from strength to strength and now control around 11% of UK grocery sales, twice the proportion compared with three years ago, according to data from Nielsen for the three months ending 5 November.
Nielsen said that of the big four, Sainsbury’s was the only one to grow sales for the period, with Tesco, Morrisons and Asda experienced falls.
Nielsen supermarket ad spend data
|Ad spend (millions £)||4 weeks ending 6 Dec 2015||4 weeks ending 7 Dec 2014||YoY % Change|
Marks & Spencer*
*Note - this is all M&S (e.g. clothing stores) not just food so not comparable