Tesco spent most on Christmas advertising.

Tesco was the highest spending supermarket investing £8.4m in the four weeks to 5 January – 29 per cent more than the year before – according to Nielsen. It maintained a 28.6 per cent share of the market over the period.

Asda spent £8.2m, Sainsbury’s £5.7m and Morrisons £5.5m.

Waitrose made the biggest increase in advertising spend during the four-week period, which includes the first week in Janaury, with investment up 56 percent to £2.2m, despite its claims in its TV ads that it was not running a big budget Christmas ad so that it could donate more to charities by saving on production costs. The increase in spend was largely driven by press advertising, however.

The investment in advertising helped drive its market share up to 4.3 per cent from 4.1 per cent.

Aldi, which was the fastest growing supermarket during the Christmas period and increased its market share to 2.8 per cent, spent £4.8m on TV and press ads – a 52 per cent rise in ad spend.

TV advertising remains the marketing “powerhouse” over Christmas, according to Nielsen, helping to drive 3.7 per cent year on year growth across the sector. Volume sales increased 0.5 per cent during the four week period.

The Friday and Saturday before Christmas accounted for 15 per cent of total spend for the month, with a third of shoppers visiting a supermarket on those days.

Nielsen UK head of retailer insight Mike Watkins, says: “With shoppers under financial pressure, but still wishing to celebrate Christmas and New Year, the challenge for all retailers was to deliver value for money and engage more effectively with the cautious consumer. Advertising and promotions played a key role in attracting shoppers and encouraging them to spend at Tesco.

“We see savvy shopping being the key trend in 2013 with consumers shopping around and looking for the best offers. Therefore, retailers will still need to use promotions and coupons to help drive store footfall. In an increasingly disloyal environment, the battle for the hearts and wallets of shoppers will be top of mind for retailers and brand owners alike.”

The latest Kantar Worldpanel figures, out yesterday (15 January) showed Tesco and Sainsbury’s achieving identical growth in the six weeks to 6 January.