Car marketers: Magazines must widen ad reach

GM advertising chief Betsy Lazar: "People are very passionate about magazines, especially women's magazines."
Magazines still connect with consumers, auto marketers say.

But that isn't stopping car companies from demanding more integration of the magazine advertising they buy with broader marketing campaigns, including Internet, TV and event promotions. And publishers are complying.

"We still believe in magazines," said Betsy Lazar, General Motors' executive director of advertising and media operations. "People are very passionate about magazines, especially women's magazines."

Yet Lazar conceded that "our spending in magazines has diminished over time as we have shifted to digital" advertising. She declined to disclose GM's magazine ad budget for 2008 but said the magazines in which the company now tends to advertise are "narrower, lifestyle-focused" titles.

"We tend to think about magazines as part of a platform that we build out," Lazar told Automotive News. "Many of the magazines have evolved into digital platforms as well. Some magazines have enormous Web followings."

For example, she said, Chevrolet advertises in a Conde Nast Media Group promotion called "Fashion Rocks." The promotion, tied to Fashion Week events each fall in New York, includes advertising in Conde Nast magazines and on their Web pages and sponsorship of a rock concert and TV show.

Turning the page
Auto advertising in magazines is routinely tied to special events, online media and TV commercials. Here are some recent examples of multimedia ad campaigns.
ChevroletConde Nast"Fashion Rocks"
ChryslerHearst"Awaken Your Senses"
DodgeTime"Dodge Journey of a Lifetime"

Plugging the Volt

Last year Chevrolet used the promotion to advertise alternative-powertrain vehicles such as the Volt plug-in hybrid and fuel cell Equinox SUV. Ads featuring singers Mary J. Blige, Fergie and other popular musicians appeared in 13 Conde Nast magazines, including The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

Campaigns that extend beyond magazine pages will continue to grow, says Jeff Hamill, senior vice president of advertising sales and marketing for Hearst Magazines.

Auto ad spending on magazines is "leveling off" after declining substantially over the past five years, Hamill says.

One reason, he says, is that publishers have become adept at melding print advertising with other media.

"It will be this approach: model by model, media partners building customized communications platforms across their assets," Hamill says. Print and digital ads "work really well together," he adds.

A Hearst promotion for the 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible, called "Awaken Your Senses," included print ads, an online sweepstakes and consumer test drives.

Says Hamill: "Custom print (ads) across multiple magazines and custom digital on the Web sites would get better results than just running a banner ad on digital or just running generic print ads."

Mark Spencer, Dodge's senior manager of communications, says magazine ads remain useful to get cars and trucks on consumers' shopping lists.

"Magazines are still broadly read," Spencer says. "They are great vehicles for improving consideration, because people do read the content if you make it interesting and engaging."

Chrysler Sebring convertible print ads told readers to "Awaken Your Senses."

Extended Journey

Dodge is using a wide range of magazines in its ad campaign for the new Journey crossover.

To reach younger buyers, Dodge is advertising the 2009 Journey in magazines such as Men's Health, In Style and Self. Journey ads aimed at empty-nest baby boomers are appearing in Newsweek, More, Travel & Leisure, Smart Money and AARP The Magazine.

Dodge also is working with Time Inc. on a program called "Dodge Journey of a Lifetime." Ads in May issues of Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly direct readers to the Web site, where they can register to take part in a contest that will award various trips.

Spencer declined to say what Dodge is spending on the Journey campaign.

Like larger marketers, Audi has reduced its reliance on magazine ads, says chief marketing officer Scott Keogh.

"We use magazines a very small amount," Keogh says. "Our online budget is probably four times our magazine budget." He did not disclose Audi's ad spending.

The relative spending is not necessarily a negative judgment of the performance of magazines, Keogh says. "This is a matter of strategy and prioritization," he says.

Jim Helberg, executive vice president of PHD Detroit, Chrysler LLC's media buying agency, argues that magazines "have the potential for solid growth."

But he cautions that publishers must "diversify resources, including digital, and cooperate with other media partners to provide content for multiple media."

Adds Helberg: "Our job is to direct that mix across platforms." 

Laura Clark Geist and Lillie Guyer contributed to this report

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