"There's always a lot of automotive [advertising] in the fall. Because of the relative robustness of the business and all the new-car introductions, there's even more than usual," said Philip Guarascio, VP and general manager-marketing and advertising for General Motors Corp.'s North American Operations.
"There's no question there is a lot more automotive money in the marketplace," said Andy Goldberg, general manager-integrated communications for Mercedes-Benz of North America.
Through August, U.S. sales of new cars and trucks topped 10.2 million units, up 9.3% from the year before. And ad spending is up even more than sales. Automotive broadcast TV advertising was nearly $2.2 billion in the first half, up 16.6%, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. And auto advertising in magazines was $747.8 million in the first eight months, up 11%, Publishers Information Bureau reported.
Anticipating the crush, big automotive marketers snapped up network prime-time and sports positions in the upfront buying season.
"The scatter market is the tightest it's been in five years," said John Vanderzee, advertising manager for Ford Motor Co.'s Ford division.
"We're all shooting at the same target," said Richard Recchia, exec VP-chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America.
Mitsubishi in August began an estimated $40 million campaign from G2, Huntington Beach, Calif. The effort-Mitsubishi's largest ever for a single model-introduces a new version of its top seller, the sporty Eclipse.
Toyota Motor Sales USA, the biggest Japanese auto marketer in the U.S., is introducing three products in the fourth quarter-a redesigned Tercel subcompact; the new full-size Avalon; and a new version of the company's flagship, the Lexus LS 400 luxury sedan.
Subaru of America is bringing out a redesigned Legacy sedan and wagon and a new coupe version of the Impreza subcompact. And Mazda Motor of America is bringing out a redesigned Protege subcompact.
But by far the biggest news this fall is out of Detroit.
GM's Chevrolet division will spend more in the fourth quarter than in any previous quarter, said Jeff Hurlbert, general marketing manager.
The estimated $150 million barrage from Lintas Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., will help introduce redesigns of the Geo Metro and Chevrolet Cavalier small cars, and Blazer sport-utility vehicle. Also, Chevy's campaigns for the midsize Lumina and Monte Carlo are just getting up to full speed.
Big marketing pushes have just begun for Oldsmobile's $32,000 Aurora sedan and Buick's new $27,000 Riviera coupe. Also new at GM this fall are the GMC Jimmy sport-utility vehicle, and the new Pontiac Sunfire small car.
Ford is putting an estimated $110 million behind the new Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique family sedan line, the company's biggest launch ever. Teasers from Young & Rubicam, Detroit, began in July, but the campaigns got into full swing on Sept. 29. On that day alone, Lincoln-Mercury ran 11 ad pages in USA Today and 24 spots on NBC.
Chrysler Corp. on Oct. 31 unveils an estimated $40 million campaign via Bozell, Southfield, Mich., for the introduction of the Chrysler Cirrus, a family sedan aimed at Japanese mainstays like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Julia Miller contributed to this story.