Toyota hits with spot

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The toyota Division of Toyota Motor Sales USA rejiggered its media buying for the 2001 model year after "a lot of soul searching last year," says Steve Sturm, VP-marketing. As a result, he figures the division is more strategic and more efficient in its buying as it continues to roll out more new models aimed at new buyer groups.

Overall, the brand's ad budget is growing to keep up with a bigger lineup. Toyota last year upped media spending by 5.8% to $400 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Consider: Toyota spent $236.5 million in measured media in 1996, according to CMR. That year, it sold 1.07 million vehicles vs. 1.4 million last year, Automotive News says.


The biggest changes have come on the TV side, with more ad dollars shifted to spot buys and cable. Toyota spent more in both spot and cable TV in 2000 than the prior year (see chart at right). Although the brand has maintained a steady spot TV presence in its key markets in recent years, Toyota's expanded sport-utility lineup is one reason for an even bigger presence in 2001. "It gives us an opportunity to enter new markets," Mr. Sturm says. Both spot and cable TV are more focused than network, he says.

But another reason for the shift is network TV's annual price hikes and declining ratings. "We can't afford to be on the air as much," Mr. Sturm contends. Toyota hasn't abandoned network TV by any means, because the carmaker still needs exposure for its new models. But its network TV spending, which had risen annually since 1997, dropped 13.8% last year to $97.2 million, according to CMR.

Toyota reduced its presence on a broadcast and cable network due to rising rates, Chief Operating Officer Jim Press said earlier this year, declining to identify them. But the networks are believed to be CBS and CNN.

The beauty of spot TV is that an auto marketer can vary the models advertised by region, says Tom Healey, a partner at consultancy J.D. Power & Associates and in the 1980s media director at J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit. "That lets you push trucks in an area where you need to and cars elsewhere."

Generally, a marketer planning to buy 35 to 50 spot TV markets may as well buy network because the cost is the same, though with the network buy, the rest of the U.S. is included, Mr. Healey says. But with a spot buy of 40 to 50 markets, an advertiser can reach about 70% of U.S. TV households.


In magazines, Toyota has increased frequency in certain books while trimming in others. But Mr. Sturm says no publishers were eliminated because "we work in harmony with them. We foster long-term relationships with our media partners." Toyota simply didn't need to be in every title. Toyota also cut back on the number of newsweeklies and food titles.

The marketer spent $107 million in magazines in 2000, up 4% from 1999, CMR says.

"The magazines bring us a lot of expanded opportunities," Mr. Sturm states. For example, a Toyota Mother's Day promotion will appear in the May issue of Time Inc.'s In Style and its Web site (

Deals like that expand the brand's multimedia approach, and developments such as the America Online-Time Warner merger also offer potential opportunities for cross-promotions, Mr. Sturm says. Toyota builds its media plans from the bottom up, not from the top down-meaning, he explains, each model first gets its own plan. Then, the Lexus Division merges its plans along with the corporate Toyota Motors North America. Toyota planners at Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif.; Lexus planners at Team One, El Segundo; and corporate planners at Oasis, New York, iron out which months each model should be advertised. Saatchi handles print buying, and Publicis sibling Zenith Media, New York, does TV.

Also for the 2001 model year, the carmaker has tried to keep Toyota and Lexus from advertising in the same issue of a magazine. The Toyota brand keeps a presence in outdoor advertising. Mr. Sturm predicts the weaker economy will push all media rates lower. "You'll get a lot more value for your dollar."

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