Betsy Lazar, general director of media operations for General Motors since 2000, is taking an untraditional approach to the automaker's advertising in magazines. The days of relying solely on single-page ads are over, she says. The new watchwords are big and bold. Lazar discussed GM's magazine strategy with Special Correspondent Laura Clark Geist.
Will GM's overall magazine spending be up or down this year?
I believe our spending will be up versus last year. It will not be up dramatically. We have several launches that are ramping up. STS from Cadillac will be using magazines as an integral part of the launch.
How are magazines' roles changing at GM?
The biggest change over the last few years is that we tended to use magazines more for reach and added coverage of our target prospects, because many magazine readers are light television viewers. We now use magazines as an impact medium.
Can you give me some examples?
With Cadillac, we've used what we call the "own the book" strategy. You might find Cadillac in a single issue having the second cover placement, center spread and back cover placement. Rather than running single ads here and there, we're more likely to group them, so that the consumer gets the breadth of our (product) portfolio.
Are you doing the "own the book" strategy in niche publications or general interest publications?
It would depend on the division. Cadillac would tend to do it in small, upscale publications, just because of the targeting. But Chevrolet had consecutive pages in the first couple of pages of a special People issue. We want to be big and bold wherever we are in the placement of our magazine (advertising).
Are these high-impact advertising buys attracting car buyers?
They do allow us to stand out in an otherwise pretty cluttered environment.
What magazine categories are getting more interest from GM?
We are trying to connect with diversity targets. We've increased our spending (on women's magazines). It depends on the product that we're launching. With the smaller cars being launched from Chevrolet, we'd be going into younger women's magazines. For Cadillac, you might find us in the epicurean books.
What is the advantage of magazines compared with other types of media?
One of the biggest attributes is that they're portable. That's why the computer and the Internet haven't replaced magazines. (Readers) like to sit down in a comfortable place with their magazine rather than sitting down at a computer screen where they can probably get similar content online. It's about the relationship over time with the editorial (content). It's a different kind of experience for consumers than other mediums.
Has buying for magazines changed at GM Media Works?
We have annual contracts with large and small publishing companies. Over time, we have tried to build more flexibility in those contracts to make it really efficient to buy that way. In other words, an annual contract is structured. The rates are available to all the divisional planning units. So on our computers, it's very easy for them to call up the contracted rates and order the insertions. If our volume goes up or down, that's built into the contract. There are reasons that we need flexibility such as the changing of a timing of a launch.
What about pricing? Will you do business with publishers who are demanding price increases?
I really can't speak to our pricing in the marketplace. As a medium, because there is no constraint on supply, there's been a lot less inflation over time than there has been in broadcast.
Nissan North America has talked about doing media audits. Is this something that you are considering?
No, we are not working with media audits. Our unit at GM Media Works is very involved with the Audit Bureau of Circulation. They pay very close attention to the delivery of circulation for the magazines that we do business with.