Todd Marschke, former field staffer for Lincoln Mercury, has a big job ahead of him. Marschke has been tapped by National Cable Communications, one of the largest cable conglomerates in the country, to head up a new automotive team to snare some of the nearly $2 billion that auto companies spend annually to place ads on local TV. Marc Bodner, general sales manager of the National Cable office in Detroit and the man responsible for putting the auto team in place, says agencies that place national auto company ads spend a mere $20 million annually on local cable. But he is confident that is about to change with Marschke and company.
'He (Marschke) knows what the factory guys are saying,' Bodner says. 'He can go to the agencies and factories and speak to them and put a whole marketing package together.'
National Cable, based in Boston, is owned by six media companies, and its cable stations represent about 85 percent of all cable ad revenues in the country, Bodner says. The vast majority of local cable's automotive revenues come from the dealers, but Marschke and his six-person team, which went into operation in January, will go after the factory money - starting with General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Daimler-Chrysler.
'We plan to go to the table to show them what spot (cable) can do,' Marschke says. 'The great thing about cable is matching up demos; spot TV will be our competition.'
In the zone
The new capability cable wants to showcase is zoning. The technique allows advertisers to place a single order that can target specific regional markets through the local cable companies that serve them. The technology to deliver zoning is available because most cable systems around the country have invested money to put in systems that connect virtually all of the cable households in a metro area.
With zoning, a commercial is input into a computer and digitized; the commercial runs on a particular system and is verified; and then an invoice is sent to the client. Cable systems can even split creative copy and hone in on specific areas within a region, something that appeals to auto companies, which are gradually shifting some of the emphasis from mass marketing to marketing to individuals.
'If Caddy wants to target the Navigator in Phoenix, we can break a market down and say focus on these six cable systems; the rest of the market you can ignore,' Bodner says. 'When you can break it down that small, that's a powerful medium.'
Traditionally, ad agencies had to tailor ads for each cable company within a market - an unprofitable venture. 'Media buyers weren't using cable because they couldn't make a profit off cable,' adds Dan Lawlor, general manager of Chicago Interconnect, the local arm of National Cable in that city.
Joe Cronin, vice chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, says network TV viewing decreased from 2.5 hours per day in 1992 to 2.2 hours in 1996. But he says total TV time, including cable programming, has grown to 3.1 hours. By 2000, he predicts, total TV time will grow to 4.5 hours a day, easily outpacing the average 1.3 hours per day consumers are expected to spend online by then. Growing popularity of cable will account for most of the overall increase, Cronin says.
That outlook worries Ave Butensky, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising, the New York association that represents local TV stations. 'Television is in a battlefield,' he concedes. 'It's us vs. everyone else.' Butensky thinks broadcast TV still can gain share in the 21st century. But only by adopting new technologies such as digital broadcasting or high definition TV programming.