Automotive marketers and magazine execs are trading jabs over the best way to measure readership.
As the fight persists, some automotive marketers and publishers said at a magazine conference that they expect automotive ad spending in magazines to rise 5 percent to 8 percent in 2001 from $1.7 billion last year.
The conflict pits many automotive marketers' desire for a standard yardstick to gauge their ads' impact against the magazine industry's array of measuring tools.
'Magazines are the hardest medium to do business with,' Eric Conn, assistant vice president of national automobile advertising for Honda and Acura, told Automotive Marketer, adding that there should be 'one rating to satisfy the client.'
Magazine execs say they are equally frustrated.
'We provide a great deal of research to them and sometimes we feel we are being held to a different standard than television,' said Time Inc. Chairman Don Logan at the American Magazine Conference last month in Bermuda. 'I defy anyone to prove to me how network television moves the needle for advertisers and demonstrate how they can reach the target audience and increase sales.'
Taking the lead
Logan believes the Magazine Publishers of America should take leadership on the measurement issue. But General Motors - which spent $460 million with magazines last year, more than any other carmaker - has taken another route to help settle the issue.
Linda Thomas Brooks, managing director of GM Mediaworks, says GM recently brought together several competing publications from the same category to do research. She says the publications put forth a 'value proposition' that explained how GM could benefit from advertising in the magazines, which have close relationships with their readers. To prove their point, the publications agreed to split the cost of the research with the automaker.
'Our purchase cycle is a lot longer so it's hard to connect `I saw this ad in House Beautiful today and I went out and bought a car tomorrow.' That's a difficult thread to connect,' says Thomas Brooks, who believes magazines can go beyond readership studies.
But despite the controversy over advertising effectiveness, publishing executives expect an increase in automotive advertising sales next year, largely due to import brands.
Says Michael Clinton, chief marketing officer for Hearst Magazines: 'The domestic industry has been fairly flat in general. Overall, the imports are spending more money so we're seeing incremental percentage growth on the import side.'
Boost from imports
Ethnic publications also expect increases from import brands as those makers try harder to reach black and Hispanic consumers.
Says Butch Graves, president of Black Enterprise: 'Domestically this year our ad pages have been flat compared to last year, primarily because GM pulled back a little bit in overall ad spending. But where we see the increase is in the Japanese and European automotive manufacturers that are spending more money against the ethnic market.'
Essence, which targets black women, also is adding business.
Says Essence President Clarence Smith: 'We have Cadillac, and Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz is coming on during the first quarter of 2001.'