Carmakers Return to Cable, Broadcast TV

Use Scatter, Spot to Make Ad Buys Ahead of Important Spring Selling Season

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Automakers seem to be returning to TV.

Time Warner's Turner networks -- TNT, TBS and TruTV -- have seen an increase in automotive ad spending the past couple of weeks, a spokeswoman for Turner entertainment channels told Advertising Age. Another broadcast network said it has recently seen auto marketers making scatter purchases.

Ian Beavis, exec VP of IAG Research's automotive arm, said he started to notice more TV ads from automakers and their regional dealer ad associations last weekend.

"There is a feeling the [new-auto] market is at or near the bottom now, so anyone who sat out earlier in the year are now out there and getting going," Mr. Beavis said. Auto marketers know they won't meet their annual vehicle-sales goals unless they build some momentum this month and carry it through into April, May or June -- all crucial sales months, he said.

In addition to scatter, the car companies are buying more spot TV than before, partly to reach pockets of the country that have lower unemployment rates and more demand, Mr. Beavis said. Ads for spring sales events are also starting to sprout.

General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division has several new spots from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Ewald, featuring Howie Long pushing the Silverado pickup and Traverse crossover, that are getting heavy play on CBS during the NCAA basketball tournament and elsewhere.

A GM spokeswoman said March has been a "pretty average" month in terms of TV ad buys, but there's been a jump in frequency and weight during the NCAA Tournament.

The official tallies from TNS Media Intelligence won't be available for months.

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