Mazda North American Operations will boost its 2003 advertising budget as part of a strategy to push sales 10 percent over 2002 numbers.
CEO Charlie Hughes says most of the ad budget is going toward three product launches - the Mazda6, which replaces the 626 and Millenia; the RX-8 sports car, due this summer as a 2004 model; and a third new vehicle, which he declined to identify.
Hughes says he no longer wants to be a follower. So the company is returning to its roots as a marketer of performance, fun-to-drive, stylish vehicles.
"We looked at Toyota and Honda too much in the '80s and '90s," Hughes says. "When you're not one of the major players, you have to offer something they don't."
After extensive consumer research that started in 1998, Mazda now is targeting auto enthusiasts.
"They're not all car nuts. Some like the technology," Hughes says. "Not only does the target account for some 4 million-plus units annually; those buyers are willing to spend more on their cars."
Hughes would not be specific about the budget increase, but since 2000 the company has spent the vast majority of its ad budget on TV to support its "zoom-zoom" campaign.
According to Competitive Media Reporting in New York, Mazda spent $141 million on measured media through the first nine months of the year, with $116 million of that going to broadcast network, cable network and spot TV. Spending numbers for all of 2002 are not yet available.
The Mazda6 line, including a sedan, five-door and sport wagon, is expected to get more than $100 million in spending this year.
Hughes also says the company will beef up its print advertising from roughly 5 percent of its total budget to 12 percent in 2003.
Mazda hasn't been a big player in magazine advertising, spending just $600,000 in the first three quarters of 2002, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Mazda sales fell 4.2 percent to 258,213 in 2002, compared with 2001, and down 0.9 percent to 14,948 in January, compared with January 2002.
Jean Halliday is on the editorial staff of Advertising Age, a sister publication to Automotive News.