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?