When marketing for the new Ford F-150 begins on Nov. 2, it will be with a “big bang” and play to millions. The effort, one of Ford’s biggest in recent years, will come with multiple layers and platforms, including massive TV and print buys.
However, if you are looking for other “big bang” car launches this year, don’t hold your breath as you won’t find many.
“The days of spending millions to launch every vehicle has seen its day,” said Art Spinella, president at CNW Marketing, Bandon, Ore. “I always thought that product launches made sense if you spent a lot of money all at once when there was a limited market to launch through, such as when you had three networks and could put up roadblocks on all three. But now you have hundreds of cable channels, YouTube and all the other online spots and DVRs. The times of these routine million-dollar launches has passed.”
The current economic situation has taken its toll on the car category with shrinking sales. In turn, automakers looking to boost the bottom line have taken a knife to their respective ad budgets. Which means fewer traditional $50 million marketing campaigns and more nontraditional launches, from online pushes to buzz-creating experiential events.
J.D Power this month projected industry sales would be 13.6 million in 2008, down 16% from 16.1 million a year ago. Meanwhile, ad spend in the category (not including online) dropped 11% in the first half of the year, per TNS, from $6.3 billion in the same period of 2007 to $5.6 billion.
Earlier this year, when BMW launched the 1-Series, a smaller version of its top selling 3-Series, support included a microsite, some print and little else. BMW claims that 65% of the 1-Series was presold in the U.S., making a big splash redundant and costly.
Jack Pitney, vp-marketing at BMW, said that experiential and online has become more crucial to the brand, and it’s bound to stay that way at the expense of costly launches. “We can see what we are spending online,” Pitney said. “The whole industry has cut back on spending. It has to be more product-driven now.”
According to Todd Turner, president at consultancy CarConcepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif., part of the reason there are fewer of these huge launches is because “the market is so competitive and there are so many little segments and new entries [that] you can’t enter a new segment with a blast. It won’t do any good.”
The shape of things not to come but here right now is being revealed by General Motors, which suffered a $15.5 billion loss in Q2. GM this year opted not to renew its sponsorship deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee, reduced its alliance with Nascar and said it would not run ads during the Super Bowl and Academy Awards.
However, GM spent $212 million on Internet marketing in 2007, per TNS, and has indicated that as much as 50% of its marketing budget would be devoted to new media by 2010. In 2006, GM launched the Pontiac G5 entirely online, and Betsy Lazar, GM’s executive director of advertising and media operations, said, “Using digital to that high degree again is not out of the question.”
Other car companies with strong online marketing budgets in 2007 were Ford ($103.5 million), Chrysler (($52.8 million), Nissan ($34 million) and Honda ($28 million).
Market research firm eMarketer, New York, predicted in a recent study that online ad spend among U.S. car companies would increase from $2.5 billion in 2007 to $5.6 billion in 2012. One reason was that “Auto advertisers are following their market. Research shows that eight out of 10 consumers now consult the Internet at least once during the car-buying process,” per eMarketer.
There have been some exceptions. Toyota launched the Tundra pickup last year with an ad spend of $115 million in its first two months (not including online), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. And Chevrolet spent $103 million between October-December 2007 behind the Malibu.
But the rule, rather than the exception, is fast becoming the marketing campaign for Kia’s Rondo. It was trickled out to dealers in the fall of 2006 in relative silence as it prepared for a full-on launch in February 2007. There was no TV, little print and some Web.
“We wanted to extend the launch of the vehicle so that people would see it more over a longer period of time,” said Ian Beavis, who at the time was Kia’s vp-marketing and is now evp and executive client services director at media agency Carat, Los Angeles. He said most automakers realized that the money once spent on huge traditional media buys for a new product was being frittered away.
“You can’t afford to sustain TV for months,” Beavis said. “The departure from big bang launches is totally a function of ROI.”
6 months ago