LOS ANGELES -- In the heyday of "Seinfeld," "Friends" and "Survivor," Thursday was the best night to reach mass audiences. But Sunday has snuck up as the new day to court the masses because of live awards shows and major sporting events.
It has become such an important night of television that one major marketer, Audi of America, is aligning its entire 2011 TV marketing calendar around the seventh day.
As part of its self-dubbed "Sunday Media Strategy," Audi will concentrate nearly 70 percent of its media budget for its A8 model on TV during 2011 with its ongoing sponsorship of the National Football League and its upcoming ad during Super XLV. It is also planning an increased investment in Sunday-morning news programming during NBC's "Meet The Press" and CBS' "Sunday Morning," as well as Sunday prime-time programming such as ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" and CBS' "Amazing Race".
Scott Keogh, Audi's chief marketing officer, said Nielsen research showed that the automaker would be able to reach 84 percent of its target affluent audience on just a Sunday-only media schedule compared to reaching 88 percent of its target audience across a comparable, incrementally expensive five-day weekly schedule.
"We analyzed where Americans consume media and asked, 'Where does luxury pervade?' And it turned out we could get as much from our media plan on Sundays vs. Monday to Friday," he said, speaking to Ad Age from the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. "This will allow us to stretch our launches and reach a higher percentage of our target audience."
Audi will also continue advertising during NCAA football, which typically airs on Saturday.
Hike in ad spending
Despite being outspent as much as four-fold by upscale competitors like BMW, Keogh said Audi will finish 2010 with record U.S. sales of over 100,00 vehicles, record manufacturer-suggested retail prices and record media spending. Audi's 2010 advertising expenditure is expected to top the $81 million it shelled out on measured media in 2009, according to Kantar Media.
Heading into 2011, Keogh and his agency partners at WPP's MediaCom are looking to boost the Audi media budget by as much as 20 percent with a heavy reliance on traditional media and big events to do the heavy lifting.
Audi's embrace of TV is on trend with much of the industry, which has been looking to DVR-proof, big-event programming to get a big bang for its buck. In the case of Audi, that means a return to the biggest event of all -- the Super Bowl -- which is, of course on a Sunday. Audi has bought a national spot during the first pod of the game airing Feb. 6 on Fox.
Keogh declined to discuss specifics on creative strategy or vehicle plans for Audi's fourth Super Bowl (and third time in the opening pod), but said the spot will be produced by long-time agency Venables Bell & Partners.
He noted that the Big Game has done more to help the company position itself as a challenger brand than any other media vehicle, citing research that showed Audi's national consideration level among prospective auto buyers before last year's Super Bowl buy was at 40 percent, but jumped to 58 percent after the game.
"We had 1,300 to 1,400 more people in our showrooms than we did before the Super Bowl," he said. Just like Americans don't go to unknown restaurants or country clubs, they go to known brands."
One investment that's gotten Audi a lot of attention that is far less measurable is its investment in Marvel Entertainment's "Iron Man" movies, with the R8 Spyder vehicle receiving a co-starring role in this summer's "Iron Man 2."
"We've seen awareness spiking, and our dealers did 160 screenings with over 300 to 400 people at each screening," Keogh said. “If you look at Iron Man, he really embodies the spirit of our brand, and that association is just as important to us as anything in our media plan."