MEDIA: Car firms prepare to share - Car manufacturers could be the first major group to break with tradition and share television advertising space. Anne-Marie Crawford reports

The days when major category advertisers were reluctant to share ad breaks with their competitors may be numbered.

The days when major category advertisers were reluctant to share ad

breaks with their competitors may be numbered.



Last week, a number of car advertisers expressed a willingness to do

away with the voluntary agreement which for years has meant just one car

ad per break (Marketing, April 23).



Mike Moran, marketing director at Toyota, certainly believes it’s time

for change in the TV market - at least as far as car advertisers are

concerned.



’I’d have no problem advertising with anyone in the same break. The

agreement is very old and it’s never really been tested. I’d be happy to

try it, if there was another advertiser who felt the same way,’ he

says.



Moran’s argument is simple: under the current agreement, ad spots are

highly sought after and hard to come by, especially in the run-up to the

August registration period.



Not only would break sharing free up much valued spots, but it would

reduce costs.



Compelling argument



’There could be a compelling argument for doing it, particularly if

media inflation continues to be such an issue,’ says Moran.



Other car advertisers agree. Chris Owens, marketing director at Mazda,

says: ’The days have gone when exclusivity was a factor. Looking at

newspapers and posters, there isn’t a strong case for solus TV

advertising. Consumers are far more educated now and the pressure will

come for change.’



Observers believe such arguments may hold water for the car market,

because different cars target different audiences - look at the

difference between a Ford and a BMW, for example.



Other highly competitive categories such as alcohol, telecoms and

financial services have also traditionally adhered to the same

’gentlemen’s agreement’, despite the fact that, with any other medium,

proximity to a competitor is a fact of life.



But when it comes to sectors such as financial services, a different

dynamic is at work. NatWest certainly wouldn’t want to share a

break.



’Unlike BMW or Skoda, we are offering very similar products to our

competitors,’ says a spokeswoman.



And alcohol has problems, too. Andy Roberts, a director at Motive

Communications, which handles media for Whitbread, looked at the value

of putting more than one brand in a break, but decided not to do it in

the end.



’We tend to separate brands from a media strategy perspective. With

Boddingtons we use lots of football and with Stella it’s films.

Whitbread wouldn’t put two lagers in a break such as Heineken and

Stella. But in certain circumstances it’s feasible they might put Stella

and Murphys in one break.’



Roberts doesn’t believe break sharing will become widespread. ’With the

launch of Channel 5 and satellite and cable, actual advertising minutage

is increasing, which works in our favour.’



Welcome move



However, agencies with car clients have welcomed the move. David Cuff,

broadcast director at Initiative Media, which handles Peugeot Citroen,

says he intends to raise it with his client.



Nick Theakstone, broadcast director at MediaVest, says his agency has

explored this with its client Fiat in the past, but adds: ’I would want

to tread quite carefully.’



Marketers such as Moran and Owens believe it is only a matter of time

before the practice becomes more widespread, despite issues of clutter

and standout.



Others, however, see it as a slippery slope. Nigel Brotherton,

communications manager at the Volkswagen Group is dead against

break-sharing.



’It would lead to a two-tier cost-structure: the ’discounted’ price

would become what we are paying now and there would be a premium for

exclusivity, which would lead to inflation,’ he says.



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