One of the world's richest TV women, Oprah Winfrey gave away 276 new sporty Pontiac G6 cars on her show Monday. No, it didn't come out of Winfrey's own pocket. It came out of General Motors' coffers - an estimated $7 million for a one half-hour segment in the hour show.
But what the press didn't really examine is the value of the deal and the carmaker's media buying history for daytime syndicated shows. It's practically non-existent.
Daytime talk shows are, for the most part, foreign territory for carmakers. Talk show advertisers are primarily the domain of Procter & Gamble, Sears, Unilever, and S.C. Johnson, or smaller-priced consumer and household products that target women.
According to Nielsen Media Research, most of Oprah's viewers are women, ages 25 to 54, who probably aren't the biggest target audience for a zippy new sports car. Of course, a free car is always to their liking.
The automaker's targeting objective is mostly men - especially for fiery little cars - who aren't really around in the afternoons to watch Oprah chitchat. This had experts, such as Bill Koenigsberg, chief executive of Horizon Media, wondering if this was the best use of GM's money for media planning and buying. "It sounds like an expensive infomercial," he said at the end of a Wall Street Journal article. "It's a great deal for Oprah, but not a great deal for GM."
In other words GM may have - way, way, way -- over-delivered on a smaller segment of its marketing objective: women 25 to 54. But that was only part of the spin; GM and Oprah got lots of press about the promotion.
One other bone to pick: The press never asked whether GM also bought advertising time in the show. The GM answer might have been: Who needs to? But, perhaps they should have.
A 30-second commercial on "Oprah" goes for some $70,000. At $7 million, this would be the equivalent of buying 100 spots in the show, and all in one episode. Most big advertisers for any daily syndicated talk show wouldn't buy 10 spots in a week. And, even if they did, the company would try and hit its target demo a little more closely.
Oprah did spend five to 10 minutes actually talking about the car during the half-hour segment. Is that worth $7 million? Real studies on the value of new product placement deals aren't conclusive.
Oprah does have tremendous influence with her viewers - just look at all the books she has sold through her book club. Consumers are certainly motivated by her, but not all her viewing consumers are necessarily the right ones, nor at the right price.