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At ad agencies with national auto accounts, strategy and creative are the two areas most affected by the industry's move to brand management.

In questions about how brand management has affected agency functions, for a survey that consultancy A.T. Kearney Inc. did for Advertising Age and Automotive News, 64% of respondents said brand management has considerably impacted strategy and 57% reported creative has been considerably impacted. Forty percent of respondents said account planning has been considerably impacted by brand management and 37% said execution.

"The top-ranked issues of strategy and creative go back to articulating what is the brand promise, then creatively executing that," said Jay Houghton, business development director at Kearney. "It all comes down to vision -- who am I and what do I want to be -- and then marshaling the troops."

Auto advertisers have a much keener interest in strategy than before, agreed an ad agency executive who asked not to be named. Although he said his agency has always done strategies for its car-client's advertising, "most client offices really weren't very interested in strategy as much as execution."


Regarding brand management's effect on creative, he said branding "takes some pressure off advertising the latest feature of the model year" to generate dealership traffic in favor of a more long-term brand-building view. "Creative works better with a strategy than with no strategy," he said.

In the past, advertising "was less related to what the consumer wanted vs. what the manufacturers had to sell," he added.

Account planning has grown in importance at agencies because many carmakers have added staff to oversee various marketing jobs, including merchandising and promotions, the ad agency executive said.

A second ad agency executive agreed with the survey's findings on the effect of brand management on agencies' concern with strategy.

He said his client wrestled with strategy on vehicle positioning for nearly a year. The delays, he said, meant creatives had to rush to finish ads by launch time.

Brand management has created more layers of approval at his client, he noted, with various client managers rarely at the same meetings. The result is that decisions get changed.


Once strategy and positioning are set, creative possibilities seem more limited because ads can't tread on the client's similar other brands, he said.

The phone survey of 100 automotive brand management professionals at carmakers and their agencies was conducted from Jan. 15 to March 4, and has a margin of error 8 percentage points.

In the survey, 67% of respondents said product-oriented advertising is extremely or very important in creating a powerful brand identity. Only 54% said lifestyle ads were extremely or very important.

Mr. Houghton found those responses surprising, noting a decade ago lifestyle advertising was more important than product advertising.

"The industry seems to have modified its thinking in terms of the role of the product," he said. "They're using the product to build [brand] image instead of using celebrities or pretty people [in ads] using the product."

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