DETROIT -- Cable TV executives say they expect automakers to spend big to advertise on their networks next season.
They expect Asian-brand companies to be especially active in the "upfront" market now under way.
Car companies and other advertisers buy national TV advertising time in two major ways. In the upfront market each spring, automakers lock in commercial time for shows that will air during the season that starts in the fall.
They also buy commercials in the seasonal "scatter" market, which operates much more closely to the time the purchased spots will be broadcast - a few weeks or months in advance. As a result, advertising time is more expensive in the scatter market than in the upfront market.
Because upfront negotiations are highly competitive, automakers are loath to discuss their ad spending plans. An auto executive, who asked not to be identified, predicts a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in automakers' cable upfront spending this year over 2004.
But cable executives say the strength of the scatter market points to a bigger boost in upfront spending.
"It's the strongest scatter market we've had in a postelection year, ever," says Greg D'Alba, COO of Cable News Network.
Automakers spent nearly $1.05 billion to advertise on cable TV networks last year - a 17.8 percent increase over 2003, TNS Media Intelligence reports. Although they spent nearly three times as much to advertise on broadcast network TV in 2004, that spending decreased 12.5 percent from 2003.
Auto marketing executives say cable advertising generally is cheaper than broadcast advertising. It also allows them to reach targeted audiences better, they say.
Julie Roehm, the Chrysler group's director of marketing communications, predicts car companies will show "a heavier mix toward cable" in this year's upfront sales. At the same time, she expects just a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in overall upfront advertising by automakers. She declined to discuss the Chrysler group's plans for TV ad spending.