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Publishers Pitch Power of Medium to Automakers

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With Toyota trying to recover from its safety recalls and rival automakers angling for its market share, local newspapers and broadcasters have largely reaped the advertising benefits. But publishers of consumer magazines, who have seen their auto ad spending drop precipitously in recent years, are trying to use the recall fallout to lure automakers back to the kind of branding messages that traditionally have benefited their medium.

“Toyota is an incredible company, and they’re going to react to this and be back in the market in a pretty big way,” said one magazine executive, who declined to speak for attribution. “The question is, will their competitors take advantage of branding opportunities while Toyota is on the sidelines?”

For now, it’s unclear where auto spending in print is headed. Toyota yanked pages in some April monthlies but kept spending in others. Time Inc.’s Entertainment Weekly, for one, hasn’t seen a loss of ads for Toyota’s Prius, 4Runner and Sienna models.

Publishers are scrambling to replace the pulled schedules, helped by what one agency print buyer called “fire sale” rates. Others are crafting more elaborate ideas, anticipating that budgets will loosen as the year goes on. One such magazine executive offering big programs to Toyota competitors is telling them “they should jump on this as an opportunity.”

Some predict Toyota will jack up spending in the second half to restore confidence in its brands and that consumer magazines—particularly car enthusiast titles—will benefit.

“They’re going to have to go to market and rebuild their image to establish consumer trust,” said Ray Chelstowski, EW publisher. “I think weeklies will benefit because it’s going to require a certain kind of frequency.”

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