Auto advertising shakeup mirrors auto industry uncertainty

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A period magazine-style ad or the 1967 Ford Falcon. Things aren't quite as rosy for the multi-million dollar auto advertising business today, even if the playing field is much larger.

Automakers never promised auto advertising a flower garden, and the current recession has been quite the pest. (Photo: Flickr)

With fear of a double-dip recession on the minds of auto industry executives, drastic measures have been undertaken that have sent shock waves through the once steady world of auto advertising. Where size and experience once guaranteed an advertising agency’s future business with automakers, now the same automakers are looking to shake things up as sales numbers continue to flounder when compared with those of previous years. According to Automotive News, there’s a $600 million media spending turnaround on behalf of three major automotive brands, and it’s all about swapping ad agencies.

Auto advertising: When an industry is in crisis

Agency consultant David Beals recognizes that the ongoing shift in auto advertising has never occurred on such a large scale before, but that the shift is indicative of just how bad profit margins are for big automakers. Take GM for example, who dumped the Chevrolet agency Publicis for Goody Silverstein & Partners and moved its $270 million Cadillac auto advertising platform from Publicis-backed Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty to Minnesota-based Fallon. Considering that Chevrolet and Cadillac are the keys to GM’s recovery, the auto advertising changes are huge.

Accelerate growth at all costs

Anything that can be done to increase sales has been first on the minds of auto executives. And changes are happening fast. Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty didn’t find out that they’d been fired until the story ran in Advertising Age. BBH’s CEO, Greg Anderson, said in a statement that his company was “extremely surprised,” to say the least. Doner, a Michigan-based agency, knows just how much change can hurt. Mazda zoom-zoom-zoomed its $200 million-plus business elsewhere just last week (down to $152 million in 2009 due to the recession). Other shifts in auto advertising from earlier this year include Volkswagen (from MDC’s Crispin Porter & Bogusky to Interpublic’s Deutsch) and Mitsubishi (Cimarron Group’s Traffic to Omnicom’s 180 in Los Angeles), according to Automotive News.

If auto advertising agencies need auto loans, they can always apply here.



Automotive News

Bloomberg Businessweek

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