The Future Of Automotive Advertising

By SuperSpy 

The battle to bailout the automakers has begun in earnest. While many consumers note the The Center for Automotive Research stat that between 1.4 million and 1.7 million jobs indirectly tied to the Big Three would be lost in the first year if the bailout failed, resistance is rampant. Not just because they think the Big Three deserve what they get, but because they don’t want to pay for their advertising.

Comments on the WNYC website about the bailout include:

“Having seen my share of American car ads, bailing out the auto industry so that ads can continue to be made is a bad, bad argument.”

The Denver Post has this one:

“American automakers have been building cars that nobody wants, this has been the case since the golden age of muscle cars died with gas price increases. Now GM, Ford, and Chrysler have had plenty of government bailouts in the past, and they keep making cars that nobody likes, and selling them with expensive advertising based on hype and image. Why should we pay for their hubris?”

Editorial on consumer blogs include sentiments such as:

“Is it possible the fortune they’re spending on advertising is being excused/maintained by advertising department spokesmen, whose jobs depend on a justification of continued mass advertising ? Could these people be giving a false picture of the “benefit” of this huge expense ? When have they ever not advertised so as to have a basis for comparison between advertising, and not advertising?” (link)

Personal blogs contain data and hard facts about ad budgets for US automakers:

“The advertising budget in 2008 for GM was $3.01B, Ford’s was $2.53B and Chrysler spent $1.74B. That is over $7 billion dollars to convince consumers to buy their gas guzzling vehicles.”(link)

Advertising has become the very public dirty laundry of the Big Three. While it’s a known fact that car advertising is an industry punchline (“why do they all look the same?” Or even, “what happened to originality or basic good sense?), consumers are now pulling the price tag, as well as the effect advertising has on the industry into the light.

The advertising industry is given a product and then told to sell it. In the case of the SUV, the ad industry did their job and did it well, helping to increase profits of sport utility vehicles sales nine fold from 1990 to 2000. The budget was over $9 billion dollars in that same period of time. In 2003, 23 percent of vehicles sold in the United States were SUV’s. Back then, no one cared. Everything was coming up roses and sales continuing to climb. Then the environment became of real public concern, gas prices fluctuated and yet, the Big Three kept give their agencies the SUV to push. While the ad industry is not to blame for keeping the focus on these bigger vehicles, the consumer backlash to their advertising is for real and it’s here to stay.

The bailout will probably pass, but what does that mean for the creative output of advertising campaigns going forward? One could argue that agencies will now face tougher scrutiny when it comes to their work by not only their clients, but consumers. It may just be a new world order.

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