Report From the AMC

GM MEDIA BUYING EXEC EYES MAGAZINE PRODUCT PLACEMENT

Comments Spark Sharp Debate at Publishers Conference

By Published on .

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- Rick Sirvaitis, president and chief operating officer of General Motors Corp.'s media-buying arm GM Mediaworks, today told
Photo: Doug Goodman
GM's top media-buying executive Rick Sirvaitis jolted magazine publishers with his comments about the potential for product placements in magazine editorial content. GM is one of the country's largest magazine advertisers.
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industry executives at the American Magazine Conference that he was intrigued by the prospect of product-placement in magazine editorial. He told the publishers that he found such prospects "very relevant."

'The right way'
He said product placements in editorial content would have to be done "in the right way," with, as he described, some sensitivity towards readers' perceptions.

Mr. Sirvaitis' remarks were disputed by Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales and a former group publisher of Advertising Age. Mr. Erhardt repeatedly questioned the value of product placement in magazines, saying he was "not sure product placement is going to drive sales, just because a vehicle" turns up in a photo shoot.

"It does help," Mr. Sirvaitis shot back. He cautioned against intrusiveness, perhaps referring to a moment from the TV show Alias in which a character in a parking lot exclaims "Let's take the F-150!"

"Not real," Mr. Erhardt said.

Thorny questions
Mr. Erhardt also said the potential for magazines to be wholly sponsored by an advertiser raised thorny questions, such as, Would the advertiser would demand editorial control, or at least an early glimpse at the contents?

The remarks from Mr. Sirvaitis, who represents one of the largest advertisers in magazines, was not the only jolt magazine executives received from a mid-morning panel, "Reality Check: What Magazine Ad Sales Can Learn From Other Media."

Tart comments
Some of the panel's most tart comments came from Greg Coleman, a former top executive at Reader's Digest, who is now Yahoo!'s executive vice president for media and sales. In the midst of one discussion about how advertisers find significance in the average prices paid by a magazine's subscribers, Mr. Coleman said, "I've got no problems with people saying, 'You're free,' " and thus doubting Yahoo!'s value.

Mr. Coleman also threw cold water on industry convictions that problems in winning share and ad rate increases were better served by more research, pointing out that self-conducted "self-serving research is not going to do it." He recalled the frosty receptions he got in his magazine days when he approached advertisers with the latest research from the Magazine Publishers of America. Such research, he said, was "generally not believed."

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