Brian Wieser, principal and founder of media and ad consultancy Madison and Wall, told Ad Age that if “the strike is prolonged and leads to meaningful inventory challenges, that would result in less spending on advertising from the Big 3.”
In a report issued earlier this month, Wieser forecast a 5% increase in total U.S. ad spending to $363 billion in 2023, with a 4.3% bump in 2024, excluding political advertising spend. Asked today if the strike might change that forecast, he said in an email that “on the margins, it could,” but added that “the [Detroit 3] probably only represents a low single-digit percentage of all advertising, although much more of local broadcasting. So while it’s not massive, it’s not nothing.” On a measured-media spending basis, GM, Ford and Stellantis in 2022 accounted for just 1% of U.S. measured-media advertising, according to Ad Age Datacenter.
Bookmark this page for more automotive news
On the flip side, “it’s very possible that other manufacturers would look to fill the void with increased advertising of their own in order to pursue market share gains,” Wieser said.
Dean Evans, a former chief marketing officer at Hyundai and a former Cars.com executive, suggested that automakers outside of the Detroit 3 are probably already thinking of ways to take advantage of the situation. “And I would say that since loyalty is at an all-time low, it's the best time to conquest,” he added, referring to attempts to get people to switch brands.
“If you’re Toyota, I would surely put my Tundra in front of that [Ford F-150] customer. Because the odds of them finding what they want are going down, down, down. And so your odds and conquesting are going up, up,” he said.
Toyota declined comment. A Hyundai spokesman said, “We have no plans to adjust any of our marketing strategies at this time," while American Honda stated, “We do not have any plans to adjust our marketing strategies due to this industry issue.”
The actions of competitors could be dictated by their own supply situation. The industry is still recovering from supply chain headaches that started during the early days of COVID, which included microchip shortages.
“Although inventory levels are certainly in a more normal state than last summer, they still haven’t fully recovered. Large automakers like Honda and Toyota are operating with very low inventory and aren’t really in a position to target Detroit Three customers from an inventory standpoint,” Caldwell said.
GM, for its part, has been running a campaign that touts the benefits it provides workers. The effort, called “Earn a Living. Make a Life,” includes a dedicated website and a video that spotlights individual workers, showing what they do at work and outside of work. Asked about the effort's connection to the strike, a GM spokesperson stated: “Earn a Living, Make a Life launched over a year ago and is a celebration of our manufacturing employees and their diverse talents. GM is committed to cultivating a culture where the unique talents and interests of our 155,000 global employees are appreciated every day.”