Tesco and Sainsbury's have made the early running for Christmas sales with aggressive advertising spending while Asda and Morrisons have reined in their budgets.

Tesco was the biggest spender in grocery retailing on press, TV and radio advertising in November, according to exclusive research for The Grocer by Nielsen Media Research.

Tesco increased its ad spend from £7.93m in 2005 to £9.66m while Sainsbury's spent £7.94m, £2m more than in November 2005.

Last month Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King was predicting an upswing in advertising from all the big four, so he may be surprised to learn Asda and Morrisons reduced their spends. Asda cut its spend from £6.39m to £5.33m. Morrisons' was down from £6.88m to £4.9m.

And Somerfield has practically fallen off the map when it comes to advertising. It spent a mere £142,000 in November compared with £2.5m last year.

Somerfield spent 64% of its budget on radio advertising and did no television advertising at all.

The others spent just less than two thirds of their advertising budgets on TV. All used less than 10% of their budget for radio advertising.