As automakers slash national advertising budgets, cable networks are doing something that most other media have failed to do: maintain their automotive ad revenue.
"Cable has been the only one holding onto money," said Jon Swallen, who monitors ad spending numbers as senior vice president of research for TNS Media Intelligence.
According to TNS data, last year automakers spent $1.03 billion on national cable, compared with $1.05 billion in 2004. Those same manufacturers spent $2.53 billion on broadcast network TV, down from $2.87 billion in 2004.
The number of cable networks has grown from 45 in 2004 to 71 in 2008, increasing the available programming and commercial time. But it is not just that cable choices have grown.
Automotive marketers say better programming quality and increased marketing opportunities — from online tie-ins to integration deals — have encouraged them to stick with the medium.
"As cable gets better and better at making really good content — from TNT's 'The Closer' to AMC's 'Mad Men' — people are going to find it and watch it, and it's going to increase cable's share of the media mix," said Matt Van Dyke, marketing communications director for Ford Motor Co.