Lincoln to consolidate its print buys

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Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln Mercury is pursuing a plan that could give one publishing company most of the automaker's estimated $50 million magazine ad budget for 2002. A winning publisher could also end up snaring a sizable chunk of advertising for sibling properties, including broadcast and online, giving a strategic advantage to giants able to package deals across media.

Lincoln Mercury and its media-planning agency, WPP Group's Media Edge, sent out requests for proposals to major publishing houses detailing its calendar 2002 print strategy, said Deborah Wahl, Lincoln's marketing communications manager. The automaker asked for presentations from American Express Publishing, AOL Time Warner, Conde Nast Publications and Hachette Fillipachi Magazines, among others, to pitch themselves as synergistic vehicles for Lincoln Mercury lines.

Although it is specifically targeting publishing groups, Lincoln Mercury is asking for ideas that go beyond magazines and events and into TV.

"It's a building-block opportunity," said Jack Valente, exec VP at Media Edge. "Hearst, for example, came to us not just with Hearst publishing but also with A&E" Television Networks, the cable venture in which Hearst has a 37.5% stake. "They said to us, if you use our publications, you can also dovetail with projects on A&E networks. AOL Time Warner can do the same thing."

"We are coming at them with integrated ideas" across multiple divisions of the media giant, said an AOL Time Warner executive.

Just how a magazine deal could include other media is to be determined. Ms. Wahl said Lincoln Mercury has another team working on a parallel track seeking ideas from TV properties, though that project is not as far along as the magazine request for proposals.

Ms. Wahl explained details to magazine sales reps at a recent meeting that included executives from its creative shop, WPP's Y&R Advertising, and media planner Media Edge, both Irvine, Calif. She expects responses in July. "We think we'll be more focused in the number of print magazines we use in 2002," explained Ms. Wahl. "We are expanding in print, but we'll be very targeted in the next year or so."

BRAND MESSAGES

"They are looking to consolidate this," said Cara David, director of corporate sales and marketing for American Express Publishing, which currently carries LincolnMercury advertising in some of its titles. Its titles include Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine.

According to an executive involved in the review, Lincoln Mercury asked publishing companies to propose ideas related to two Lincoln brand messages. One is the long-running theme of "American Luxury." The other is a new brand theme, "Uncompromising luxury," that will roll out next year.

"[This] is not a cost thing; it's an idea thing," said Mr. Valente. "As a matter of fact, when we talk to these publishers and they ask how much money do we want to spend, we say we're not sure yet. Show us what you have and then we'll talk."

Lincoln Mercury spent about $50 million last year on U.S. magazine advertising, according to Taylor Nelson Sofre's CMR. Magazine spending was split about evenly between the Lincoln and Mercury brands. In all measured media, Lincoln Mercury spent $170 million last year.

"We are giving them a little peek at our marketing plans so they can come back to us and say, `Here are some ideas we have that can help you from a launch platform [for new auto models] as well as advertising through the rest of the year.' And by doing that, we are getting some really good stuff that we are happy with," Mr. Valente said

Ms. Wahl cited Lincoln's promotions during the Academy Awards as the type of ideas she's seeking to extend a magazine buy beyond print. The brand advertised in Conde Nast's Vanity Fair Oscar edition, and tied in a presence on Web sites, at the ceremonies and parties in Hollywood.

WPP unit J. Walter Thompson USA's Ford Motor Media will still handle the print negotiations and buying for Lincoln Mercury.

"Right now [the requests for proposals] are for Lincoln Mercury," Mr. Valente said, "but as we get ramped up on Jaguar, we'll probably start doing the same thing for them, too."

Jaguar spent $40 million in all U.S. measured media last year, according to CMR, nearly $18 million of that in magazines. Next year is crucial for Lincoln as it launches second-generations of the LS and Navigator, plus a "baby" Navigator.

Contributing: Jon Fine

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