Automotive marketers are sending magazine publishers a strong, clear message: Give us more - a whole lot more - than just a page of print advertising.
Car companies spent about $1.84 billion to advertise in U.S. magazines last year - down 13.3 percent from 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Several major automakers say their magazine ad budgets will be flat at best this year.
But even without the promise of substantially higher spending, automakers are demanding that publishers do more to link print advertising with promotional events, online and broadcast campaigns and even cell phone marketing. The types and complexity of such programs are growing. Some examples:
- Last year, Ford division and Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. created a nine-month initiative aimed at promoting the Fusion sedan to women. The campaign inspired the magazine company to create an event marketing unit. Some marketers who turn to the unit may never buy a print ad, says the executive who heads the new group.
- Toyota Division is creating customized advertising in Complex magazine, which appeals to young urban men. Each boldly graphic ad for the Toyota Yaris appears just once in the magazine. That's an about-face from traditional mass media campaigns that rely on repetition of images and tag lines.
- Last month, Lexus sponsored an environment-themed edition of The Week magazine. But the issue never landed in mailboxes. In keeping with its eco-friendly message, the magazine was published entirely online.
'Connect with customers'
"We are partnering more with those print magazines that are offering to connect with customers in relevant and unique ways," says Lexus media manager Andrea Lim. She handles media planning and buying for Toyota's luxury brand.
Lexus is spending less on magazine advertising this year than last year, Lim says, declining to provide figures. But the brand is spending more on online magazine programs, she says.
"If you think of the ways consumers today want to receive information, you have to become more portable," Lim told Automotive News. "People still like paper and looking at the beautiful content. But we want messages to be seen and to be relevant where people want to get them."
Lexus approached The Week last year about the environmental promotion. It sought a marketing tie-in to Earth Day to promote its hybrid vehicles, including the RX 400h SUV, GS 450h sedan and LS 600h L sedan that is due in July.
The magazine's Web site, theweekmagazine.com, directed visitors to Lexus' site, lexus.com. It included an "EcoFact Map" that detailed global efforts to aid the environment, accompanied by a Lexus ad.
Sierra and swimsuits
Automotive marketers say they want the magazines in which they advertise to create ways for consumers to interact with their brands.
GMC and Time Inc. created a promotion for the GMC Sierra pickup that included print, online and live venues. It included a six-page 3-D advertising section in this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which had a distribution of 4.5 million copies.