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Auto Advertising Is Shifting Gears: O&M’s Phillips Says TV Commercials Are No Longer Best Spots for Car Marketers’ Complex Messages By Shelly Garci

MARINA DEL REY, CALIF. – As competition tightens, distribution ch

Automobile design is already far too indistinguishable from one model to the next; quality has become the price of entry; and soon there will be supermarkets where competing nameplates sit side by side on the showroom floor like so many stereos at Circuit City, Phillips told the audience.
With that kind of parity, marketers must find ways to deliver complex information that won’t fit in a 30-second commercial. ‘Advertising is probably seen as less important today by clients than it was some years ago,’ Phillips said.
What will lure customers will depend more on issues like after-sales service and the ownership experience. Even price, with the advent of the no-dicker sticker and leasing, which Phillips said will soon extend to all models, not just luxury nameplates, will become less critical in the mix. Lease arrangements, with their emphasis on monthly payments, will lessen the importance of price as a purchase factor. ‘The gap has narrowed in terms of perceived affordability,’ Phillips said.
With car marketers more dependent than ever on existing customers Phillips expects a greater focus on direct marketing programs and building databases to support those efforts.
Keeping customers loyal to an automobile brand when they reenter the marketplace will become critical to success.
Car buyers rate television and print advertisements much lower as a source of information than information supplied by factory brochures or even information dealers deliver verbally, according to Phillips. That means car marketers will need to find ways to deliver brochures before the customer even gets to the automobile dealer showroom. Already automobile brands including Acura, Infiniti and Volvo have begun mailing product brochures to targeted lists of potential car customers.
Phillips said Ogilvy & Mather has been paying special attention to the natural lifecycle of car ownership, ‘trying to capitalize on the mood at a certain time in the ownership experience.’ One Jaguar brochure the advertising agency developed asks questions like ‘Is the honeymoon over? Do you still look back when you park your car? Does a trip to the dry cleaners thrill you like it used to?’
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)