What’s Next for Autos and Online Marketing?

Gas_Prices When I recently came across these old gas price signs I had to take this picture. The days of a gallon of gas costing less than a bottle of water are long gone. But as the cost of crude oil climbs, auto manufacturers have to get more creative with their engineering, as well as online marketing.

Last week this headline hit the news feeds:

Planworks, Starcom MediaVest Group’s dedicated General Motors buying-and-planning unit, has cut 25 jobs. The cuts come as GM is preparing to shift half of its $3 billion budget into digital and one-to-one marketing within the next three years.

This headline demonstrates the shift that is occurring in both consumer habits and the agency world. For example, is Gen Y a) subscribing to print publications and picking up the newspaper, or b) surfing the web and sending text messages on their iPhones?

Looks like GM gets it. $3 billion is no small spend, and it may even exceed data released by BIGresearch who provided a report in 2006 (see below) comparing the amount large brands spent on ads vs their influence on consumers.

   Automotive Ad Spend vs. Influence to Purchase

Advertiser  Magazines  Newspaper  Outdoor    TV    Radio   Internet
---------  ----------  ---------  -------  ------- ------- -------
General      12.19%/     6.66%/    1.24%/  40.29%/  3.04%/  3.59%/
Motors        16.9%      17.0%     10.2%   17.5%    6.4%     8.7%

Ford         13.08%/     5.89%/    0.82%/  40.85%/  1.52%/  3.85%/
              17.0%      16.5%     11.9%    18.0%    6.7%    8.4%

Toyota       12.95%/     2.58%/    1.09%/  39.47%/  1.40%/  2.79%/
              19.0%      15.8%     10.5%    16.8%    5.3%    8.6%

*Source: BIGresearch SIMM 11 and analysis of Ad Age Domestic Ad Spending
         by Category (2006)
**       % of Total US Ad Spend/Media influence on brand owners to purchase
         a vehicle

What GM undoubtedly sees is an increase over time in the Influence metric for Internet, as well as the eventual merging of Internet and TV.

GM has already begun to foray into interactive websites and social media marketing campaigns.

Here are a few examples:

At the heart of GMNext is a two-way dialogue with customers about everything from environment to innovation. It is a commendable endeavor and demonstrates a commitment to an open conversation about the future of transportation. Big brands like GM cannot afford to seem out of touch or archaic. They have to be on the pulse of current and future consumer preferences in order to be relevant in the market place. Using the web to engage customers is an excellent way of gathering data, and it has far more reach and measurement potential than a conversation in a showroom at a local dealership.

Of course, it is all lip service unless GM’s products actually evolve with their online strategies. My guess is they will because they have to, because I certainly won’t be buying another car that only gets 18 mpg. I just hope it is fast enough.

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