In the four weeks to 7 December, the German discounter spent 171% more than it did in the same period last year, according to exclusive data from Nielsen.
It spent the same as Tesco, which has traditionally held top spot for spend. The move is a clear sign of intent for the discounter, which has been ramping up its marketing spend to win customers from its traditional supermarket rivals.
Tesco’s ad spend grew just 5% over the same period. However, earlier data covering the four weeks to 30 November showed Tesco spend plummeted by 26% to £5.2m, which could suggest a change in strategy for the supermarket towards more tactical ads nearer the Christmas period.
Waitrose was also down 13% for November but when comparing the four weeks to 7 December, there was no change in spend year-on-year.
During this November period Aldi was shown to have shelled out the most of all the retailers, gaining a headstart in the festive period by splashing out £7m on TV ads – a 38% surge on its 2013 spend.
Aldi spent more than any other retailer
Aldi was closely followed by Lidl, which dished out £6.4m. Ranked third was Sainsbury’s, spending £5.3m.
Marks & Spencer’s spend was shown to be down in November by 8% to £5m. However this increased in the four weeks to 7 December to £5.7m as it ramped up its campaign, increasing year-on-year spend by 13%.
Morrisons spend was up 14% over the period to £5.4m.
Andy Nairn, founding partner at agency The Lucky Generals said data was reflective of the wider grocery market, where the discounters are seeing rapid growth.
TV ads are a public demonstration of who is feeling bullish
"The big story this year has been the rise of Aldi and Lidl and their incursions on the likes of Tesco. It’s no surprise to see those two leaping up the rankings," he said. "Lidl in particular - although they both have - a really strong communications vehicle."
He said while TV ad spend was not the only barometer of marketing investment, TV spend was an important indicator of the confidence of retailers at Christmas.
"At Christmas, TV is an important and very public demonstration of whether you’re feeling bullish," he said, adding the "mainstream" competitors were "a bit on the back foot".
The big four, including Sainsbury’s, were "being battered", he said, with like for likes and profits down, while the discounters were displaying a "sense of corporate confidence".
"It reflects what’s going on in the market, who’s winning the battle of the stores on value, and through who’s feeling most bullish," he said, adding there was an opportunity for the discounters to connect with consumers beyond Christmas to be seen as more than a "top up shop".
"Lidl is on a roll right now - not only commercially, but in terms of communications. It seems to be hitting all the right notes, in all media. And when you have that swagger, it's natural to upweight what remains the most public medium," he said.
By contrast, other retailers were "stuck in a more tactical, promotional fight on the ground", he said.
Lidl said it had taken a different approach to its advertising this year, investing more in TV Advertising and creating its first ever brand campaign, #LidlSurprises. It added research it commissioned from Millward Brown showed the #LidlSurprises Christmas advert was the "most likely" advert out of all retailers' Christmas ads to make customers buy over the festive period.