NEW YORK - The Internet is not yet an advertising medium, but it's getting there. And when it does become a full-fledged ad medium, automakers will be able to aim ads at individual households.
Panelists at the Automotive Marketing Seminar held at the New York auto show last week agreed that the Internet is being used by car shoppers to gather information. The seminar was sponsored by Automotive News.
Once WebTV appears on the Internet, advertisers will be able to put 200 different commercials in one time slot, according to Robert Mitchell, Chevrolet media director at Campbell-Ewald. WebTV will allow specific ad messages to be aimed at specific households.
But for now, Brad Bradshaw, vice president of marketing at Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A., warned that creative advertising on the Internet is a waste of time and money. 'Most people use the Internet to get information,' he said. 'They're using it to decrease the number of choices when they go shopping for a car.'
Ann Kalass, cross-vehicle planning manager at Ford Division, characterized the Internet as an enabler. 'It's an online shopping service, and we want to be a player,' she said.
The panelists also agreed that ethnic marketing is on the rise.
But ethnic marketing is not as simple as advertising in ethnic media. Automakers must be involved in minorities' communities and causes. They must also take note of what ethnic groups live where and how many are there.
For instance, Hispanics are a minority, but account for 40 percent of the population of Los Angeles.
Nissan's Bradshaw said that in about 10 years, when Hispanics hit half of the population of Los Angeles, it will be necessary to market to them as the majority population.
BMW of North America Inc.'s holistic marketing approach seems to target everybody who likes to drive. But 'heretofore,' said BMW President Victor Doolan, 'we've neglected certain groups like African Americans.'
Doolan went a step further, saying that not only does BMW need to redouble its minority marketing efforts - which include targeting women - but the automaker also needs to diversify its white-collar work force.
'We're making progress,' he said. 'But we still have work to do.'