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FORD SHIFT: DEALER GROUPS OUTSPEND NATIONAL ADS; FIRST-QUARTER SPENDING DATA REVEAL STRATEGY CHANGE

By Published on .

Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division changed its advertising strategy this year by increasing funds for its regional dealer advertising groups.

The dealer groups outspent the factory in the first quarter of 1996, $47 million vs. $42 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Second-quarter figures aren't available, but the division earlier confirmed it was trimming second-quarter broadcast and print advertising slightly to cut costs (AA, May 5).

Several Ford dealers said the dealer groups spent more than Ford Division in the second quarter.

"It is a change from what we've seen in the past," said a Ford dealer in the Southwest. "It's clearly Ford's strategy to work more through their dealer ad associations."

FASTER RESPONSE

The move has given Ford's 63 dealer groups more control over their regions' advertising. That allows for faster responses to regional market conditions, dealers said.

It's unusual for dealer associations to spend more than the factory. A random CMR check of other brands, including Chevrolet, Jeep and Dodge, shows those nameplates outspent their dealer groups in the first quarter.

An exception is General Motors Corp.'s GMC brand. GMC spent $7 million in the first quarter and the dealer groups $12 million-a continuation of last year, when GMC spent $48 million vs. the dealer groups' $69 million, according to CMR.

PLAN WORKS IN NEW ENGLAND

Ford dealer groups in New England are doing more TV advertising than a year ago and the push is working, said a dealer there. He likes the new pattern because different regions have different needs.

"Trucks with four-wheel drive are more popular here in the winter, but in the South you don't have to advertise that," he said.

If a vehicle isn't selling well in certain regions, the dealer groups can create special campaigns.

"We have a lot of different models and some lines have to suffer," the Southwest Ford dealer said. "When's the last time you saw a Thunderbird or Aerostar ad?"

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