Auto TV ads miss likely prospects: J.D. Power study

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An auto consultantcy and Nielsen claim they have a better mousetrap for car marketers trying to reach buyers on national broadcast TV.

J.D. Power & Associates teamed with Nielsen Media Research to develop the so-called Auto Viewing System, which they said improves reach to prospects of specific new car or truck segments.

During the pilot study in 1999, the names in Nielsen diaries were matched with new car and truck buyer registration data from researcher Polk Co.

"We studied car and truck buyers, and matched them up with the shows they watch," said Tom Healey, a partner at J.D. Power.

OVERBUYING

The results show that car marketers are reaching too many non-buyers with their national broadcast TV buys, said Deborah Anderson, director of Nielsen's New Media Services. The auto marketers are basing those TV buys on viewer demographics, she added.

"The beauty of this is we don't have to contact consumers," she said. "It's just list matching."

The plan is to study roughly 150,000 Nielsen diaries three times a year.

A small percentage of all U.S. adults buys a new sport-utility vehicle every year, Mr. Healey said. But the data from the pilot study showed sport-utility buyers have different TV viewing habits than non-buyers.

"Non-buyers outnumber buyers, so the car companies are targeting far too many non-SUV buyers within their media buys," he said.

Data from the new system collected in November revealed that "Felicity" ranked 10% better as a medium to reach mini-SUV buyers, such as Toyota Motor Sales USA's RAV4. Meantime, "Cops" ranked a 17% poorer buy to reach purchasers of full-size SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban from General Motors Corp.

Those data also showed "Frasier" rated a 35% better reach to buyers of lower mid-domestic cars, such as the GM's Buick Regal. In contrast, the same program was rated a 17% poorer reach to buyers of compact pickup trucks, such as the Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Ranger.

MARKETER INTEREST

Mr. Healey and Ms. Anderson are just starting to peddle the new targeting system to car marketers, so most hadn't heard about it.

When Advertising Age explained the concept to a car marketing executive and an executive from a car ad agency, both expressed interest.

"I'm interested in anything that would help me buy more efficiently," said Arthur Bud Liebler, senior VP-marketing at DaimlerChrysler. But he added he'd only be interested if it was priced right. If the cost was too high, it would offset the savings.

Mike Vogel, president-CEO of the Southfield, Mich., office of FCB Worldwide, said, "There have been all kinds of proposals over the years." He mentioned a targeting plan that merged TV and magazine audiences for a total rating point more than a decade ago that didn't deliver.

"If it really can do what they say it can, I'd be interested," he said.

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