Toyota Web Blitz Opts for Local News

NEW YORK For most of the Internet’s brief history, reaching 20 million U.S. car buyers for a product launch meant calling the Web portals. But new options promise to give portals a run for their money when it comes to attracting advertisers seeking mass reach.

Toyota yesterday executed a home page roadblock for the 2008 Highlander SUV. Unlike the roadblocks it used when the campaign began in July, this one took place on 130 newspaper and local TV sites large and small, reaching over 22 million users. (Roadblocks, in which advertisers buy all the units on a site’s front page, have been staples of Internet campaigns for years.)

“It’s very easy to call Yahoo!, AOL and MSN to say we want to buy a home page,” said John King, interactive communications director at Saatchi & Saatchi in Torrance, Calif., Toyota’s agency. “With so many people realizing how efficient they are, it’s hard to plan for that inventory and the costs continue to increase.”

Saatchi turned to Centro, a buying service that helps advertisers and agencies connect with local papers. Centro’s proposition: national advertisers can submit one order to run a campaign across dozens of local sites.

The Highlander roadblock, featuring rich media units, ran on big newspaper sites like, as well as the sites for small outlets like The Westport News in Connecticut and the local CBS affiliate in Dayton, Ohio.

King said the buy was attractive because it allowed Toyota to reach its 18-49-year-old audience in a highly targeted local environment.

“People do go to their local news sites because they can’t get everything they need from the portals,” he said.

Local news outlets, particularly newspapers, have struggled to make up ground lost to the Internet in recent years as their status as gateways to local advertising gave way to targeted Web options. Yahoo! is partnering with hundreds of newspapers to sell advertising on their Web sites, as well as allowing them to sell inventory on its portal.

King declined to specify the budget for the Toyota buy, but said it was on par with the cost of running the campaign with a portal.