Auto CMOs Dish on Media Ahead of Upfronts

Here's What Mercedes-Benz's Slaven, GM's Mahoney and Cadillac's Ellinghaus Have to Say

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Drew Slaven
Drew Slaven

The good news for TV networks: Deep-pocketed automotive advertisers still think the upfront is the place where they can lay their paws on the sports and entertainment programming they want -- and the place where they can get the most bang for their buck.

Mercedes-Benz USA is traditionally bullish on the upfront, said Drew Slaven, VP of marketing. And that won't change this year. "We like the upfront," he said. "We find, as a company, that it's where you put your ad dollars for the most efficiency. You get the best programming -- and you get the best dollar for it."

Tim Mahoney
Tim Mahoney

Despite the rise of digital and other media, TV advertising "is still the 800-pound gorilla," Mr. Slaven added. "A lot of people question: 'Is the 30-second TV spot dead?' My answer is: 'Absolutely not.' It's differently consumed. It's part of a bigger toolbox. But it's still the most effective single piece of marketing-communication material in the U.S."

Mercedes sponsors live sporting events and will also look to buy "top-tier" programming such as "The Voice," "Modern Family," "Revenge" and "Scandal."

Tim Mahoney, global CMO for General Motors' Chevrolet brand, said Chevy will seek more and better product integrations in this year's upfront. He declined to offer specifics, but pointed to deals inked during previous seasons, such as Volkswagen's partnership with Discovery Channel's "Shark Week," in which a Beetle-shaped shark cage was driven along the ocean floor.

"It provided us with content, it took the iconic shape of the Beetle, it partnered with a valuable media property and it was super cool," Mr. Mahoney said, of the Shark Week deal.

Uwe Ellinghaus
Uwe Ellinghaus

Moving forward, Mr. Mahoney, who was with VW prior to Chevy, wants the same kind of out-of-the-box integration deals for the Chevrolet brand.

Uwe Ellinghaus, CMO of Global Cadillac, said he was focused on print advertising and experiential marketing, while acknowledging that a brand the size of Cadillac needs a presence in all media channels. TV, he added, is important to get "emotional" messages across.

"Don't expect major shifts in our marketing budget. But there's one message that I have: I believe in experiential branding," he said. "Everything that brings customers and prospects in contact with our cars -- be it in displays, events, motor shows -- works well."

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