NEW GM SYSTEM REDIRECTS CHEVY MAGAZINE BUYS: CAMPBELL-EWALD'S DART PROGRAM COULD BE BOON FOR SPECIALIZED TITLES

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General Motors Corp. is changing the way it buys magazines, utilizing a proprietary research system that could effect up to 20% of the $200 million its Chevrolet division will spend on the medium next year.

The move marks a major shift for GM -- the nation's largest magazine advertiser -- which focused on general titles with the lowest costs-per-thousand for its 1997 magazine buys.

EXPANDING TO OTHER BRANDS

Philip Guarascio, VP-general manager, marketing and advertising for GM's North American Operations, already is asking executives at Chevrolet agency Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., if the system can be applied to other GM brands. Campbell-Ewald developed the system, dubbed Descriptive Audience Research Technique.

GM spent $456 million on magazine advertising in 1996, $113 million more than No. 2 Philip Morris Cos., according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Besides the DART program, the auto marketer plans to strike deals with one or more publishers to do research on targeting by gathering information such as why readers choose certain publications, according to one publishing executive.

GM is serious about finding better ways to reach potential customers. Last week, at a meeting with magazine representatives at GM MediaWorks to show off the company's new Cyberworks media lab, Mr. Guarascio issued a special challenge: He'd approve a $1 million budget for any publication that comes up with a campaign that marries elements of print and cyberspace in a unique way.

Mr. Guarascio could not be reached at press time.

The DART system is likely to prompt money to shift from mass-circulation titles to special-interest magazines.

"With DART, you might see us going with a midsized lifestyle book, such as a Cooking Light or an Outdoor Life, and less with the more general, mass-sized publications such as the newsweeklies or a TV Guide," said Bob Mitchell, Campbell-Ewald's exec VP-media director on the Chevrolet account.

Mr. Mitchell helped refine DART along with Bob Gervason, exec VP-media director for all non-Chevy business; Bernie Guggenheim, senior VP-media research; and Dale Coons, VP-media research.

DART was originally designed for Campbell-Ewald's non-auto clients.

MORE PRECISE EVALUATIONS

Using Mediamark Research Inc.'s extensive database, DART overlays specific lifestyle information -- in this case about new car/truck buyers. It then incorporates subjective weighting and, instead of the industry standard of saying there is just a zero or 1 propensity to purchase or lease a new car, the system assigns intermittent values such as a 0.2 or a 0.5. After adding the weighted lifestyle target with known buyers, final targeting is reached.

"Before we'd say that if we use such and such a publication, that reader may be one and a half times more likely to buy a sport-utility vehicle. With DART, we can say that reader is seven times more likely," Mr. Mitchell said.

DART is likely to be used for other media buys as well.

"Right now, we're using it primarily for magazines, but it will help to identify affinity programs, some TV, and sporting activities that the brand should also be involved with," Mr. Mitchell said.

GM also is involved with Audits & Surveys Worldwide to improve that company's research in the auto category. Mr. Mitchell confirmed that Campbell-Ewald is helping Audits & Surveys -- and MRI -- refine the way they ask questions in their surveys.

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