CMOs Continue to Consider Reining In TV Spending


NEW YORK Buy cut its TV spending by about 40 percent last year. But instead of pocketing the money, CMO Barry Judge opted to spend it on increasing staff in the company's stores and on improving the company's Web site.

Realtor Century 21, meanwhile, is planning to funnel all the cash that it used to spend on TV advertising onto the Web. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is also completely cutting out TV in its 2009 media mix.

As the upfronts loom, many big brands -- like General Motors and Citibank, for instance -- are slashing their spending on television advertising out of necessity. But another factor to consider is the maverick CMO who is willing to spend a lot less on TV advertising or cut it out entirely.

Partially, it's a response to market conditions, but some marketers say the economy is prompting them to take a chance on new forms of marketing.

Susan Lintonsmith, CMO for Red Robin, for instance, said the economy is definitely one impetus for going without TV. "It's a little of everything," she said. The brand just started advertising on TV in 2007. Lintonsmith said she thinks brand awareness is where it needs to be. "We'll be riding the momentum of two years of advertising."

The economy isn't always the main reason for cutting back. Judge's thinking is TV advertising is important, but can be undermined by a bad consumer experience. "The big differentiator is our people," said Judge. "We invested more in labor. We took a pretty significant chunk out of our marketing budget and allocated that toward having more help in the stores."

For Beverly Thorne, Century 21's svp, marketing, excising TV advertising stemmed from the realization that the company had 98 percent brand awareness. "TV is very effective for brand awareness," she said. "If you've got 10 skirts, you don't need another skirt." Instead, the company is taking money it would spend on TV and reallocating it to online -- namely paid search, display ads and social media. Thorne said research has shown that most potential home buyers or sellers -- about 87 percent -- go online before making a purchase.

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