In Hard Times, Some Marketers Will Punish Bad-News Messengers

The big three American automakers have had some bad news about their survivability over the past year or so.


But, while they bought fewer TV ads overall, that was purely an economic decision. It didn't seem to be a way for them to take out their frustrations with the editorial side of news operations -- those folks who actually reported on the auto industry's problems -- by punishing the business side and decreasing ad spend.

Now one ABC News report suggests that a Southeastern advertising agency that buys for Toyota dealerships, directed by those dealers,  pulled ads from some Southeast ABC-affiliated TV stations. Word is the Toyota dealers wanted to protest what they felt were an excessive number of negative stories about Toyota's safety problems. Of course Toyota has been in a much stronger position, despite the recession, than American auto companies.



For years automakers have made TV stations wealthy and profitable; many believe auto companies continue to hold this leverage. Still, everybody knows there's a big wall between the business and journalistic side of a TV news operation. Isn't there?

History has shown it's always been pretty much a non-starter for marketers to publicly tie their displeasure of news content to business dealings.

In the end, there are two simpler and more effective approaches.

First, there's the broader view that TV marketers always have a choice - increasingly so. If they don't like the content of any TV program -- news, sports, or entertainment -- they don't have to buy.

In the past, marketers used "hit lists" of shows they didn't want to see their commercial messages in, even if those shows were perfectly targeted to core viewer demographics. This was especially helpful in buying hundreds of shows via national spot television or through cable networks.

The second way for those Toyota dealers comes from the seemingly obvious: Considering what the automaker has gone through -- seemingly losing some public confidence in its cars -- wouldn't it want to spend more to get out the right, comforting messages?

3 comments about "In Hard Times, Some Marketers Will Punish Bad-News Messengers".
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  1. Steve Passwaiter from SLP Enterprises, February 10, 2010 at 1:46 p.m.

    This isn't a first. I knew of a large, Midwestern car dealer that annually surveyed TV stations to see what kind of cars they drove. This dealer sold only Ford's and hated foreign manufacturers. One station sales person lied on the annual form and said the GM drove a Lincoln. The dealer later found out that the GM actually drove a Lexus and promptly canceled about $500k of advertising on this station. This was the number one news station in town but he didn't care. I've also seen incidents where dealer groups pulled ads from stations that did news stories they didn't like. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 10, 2010 at 1:51 p.m.

    It's not just TV.

  3. Fraser E from Opinions expressed herein are solely my own, February 10, 2010 at 3:49 p.m.

    Car dealers are enormous fish in the small pond that local TV comprises. I'm talking "yes sir, how high?" when any of them says "jump" to their sales reps. Maybe that gives some of them a skewed sense of influence on the larger picture.

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