The most visible aspect of your $1-per-head Beef Checkoff program is the advertising. The current "Beef. It's what's for dinner." campaign is popular among cattlemen, and research suggests it has helped stimulate positive images of beef among consumers.

While I've argued for reduced advertising spending and more funds for new product research in the past, it's important that beef maintain a certain level of advertising exposure. In an effort to give some perspective to beef's advertising spending, let's compare it to the spending by some well-known American companies. Keep in mind that while advertising accounts for the biggest portion of the checkoff's annual budget, your checkoff dollars also fund many research projects, industry and consumer information projects, and foreign market development.

Each year an annual report of the 100 Leading National Advertisers based on U.S. spending is published by Advertising Age, a weekly news magazine for the advertising industry. General Motors Corp. topped last year's list with 1997 U.S. advertising totaling $3.09 billion (yes, billion). Proctor and Gamble Co. spent $2.74 billion. Eleven companies on the list spent over $1 billion to advertise their products. In other words, 11 companies spent more in advertising in 1997 than the beef industry has collected with its $1 checkoff over the past 10 years.

Advertising expenditures by the Cattlemen's Beef Board totaled $17.3 million in 1998, and the 1999 budget calls for spending of $13.2 million. Compared with Advertising Age's top 100, beef's spending is meager. In fact, number 100 in spending was Tandy Corp., owner of Radio Shack, which spent $199.7 million.
Other companies' spending of interest: McDonald's Corp., $1.04 billion ($577.8 million on its fast-food restaurants); Burger King, $423.1 million; Wendy's, $171.9 million; Sonic Drive-Ins, $23 million; White Castle, $10.3 million.

To add a little more perspective, Coca-Cola Co. ranked number 23 on Advertising Age's list with advertising expenditures of $710.8 million. Their total U.S. revenue for 1997 was $6.44 billion. In other words, they spent $1 in advertising for each $9.07 in revenue. Their chief competitor, PepsiCo ($13.88 billion in sales, $1.245 billion in advertising expenditures) spent $1 in advertising for each $11.15 in revenue.

Last year American's consumed 17.656 billion pounds of retail weight beef (64.4 pounds per person). If we assume that the average price of that beef was $2.50 per pound, total 1998 sales were $44.14 billion. And we spent $17.3 million in advertising. In other words, beef spent $1 in advertising for each $2,551 in revenue. Granted, beef's generic advertising campaign was not meant to compare with the expenditures by major corporations on branded products such as Coke and Pepsi. But what these numbers show is the value successful American companies place on advertising.

The amount of money spent on advertising each year is mind-boggling. But beef can't afford to drop out of the race. Coupled with advertising from restaurants, supermarkets and other beef retailers, your national beef advertising campaign is a vital part of total beef promotion that helped move nearly 18 billion retail pounds last year.