TVB’s Chris Rohrs on his discussions with GM


An AdAge story this week brought to light the Television Bureau of Advertising President Chris Rohrs’ discussions with General Motors on its media budget spending. The local TV trade group, after analyzing the automaker’s spending for the first half, concludes that GM is too heavily invested in media aimed at reaching in-market new-vehicle shoppers, at the expense of brand building on TV.

Rohrs told AdAge his group has been talking to GM VP/Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing Mark LaNeve for "well over a year" about its big move into online advertising. The auto giant’s very public pronouncements on its move to digital led the TVB to analyze GM’s media strategy and spending in the first half of 2008 vs. the nation’s six other major automakers, he said. The TVB sent its analysis to all 600 of its member stations.

The article went on to say Rohrs was "stunned" by data provided by TNS Media Intelligence that showed GM upped its newspaper spending to $120 million in the first six months of the year, $85 million more than the year-ago period: “GM’s newspaper spending represents 12% of its total measured media budget in the first half — the highest among the top seven automakers. The bulk of GM’s newspaper buyers are local papers. During the same period, GM dropped its spot TV spending by $10 million to $69 million in the first half, or 7% of its total measured-media budget. All the other carmakers spent a larger percentage in spot TV. And GM spent 9% of its total budget in online advertising in the first half, while the other six carmakers averaged 6% of their entire budgets.”

TVBR asked Rohrs to provide more info on what they’ve talking with GM about and the points they’ve been making with LaNeve. Said Rohrs: "We were analyzing the ad-spend figures relating to the internet when we discovered the huge move to newspaper with Tier 1 dollars. I don’t think you’ll find very many people who would argue for newspaper as a brand-building strategy so this just exacerbates the problem of putting too much weight against the bottom of the funnel and too little against the top…..where GM is in fact losing the game. As I said in my quote in our analysis, GM has the vehicles but they cannot succeed in this marketplace without adequate development of its brand images."

He added: "Following are some direct lifts from our correspondence with GM over the past year:

*(3/25/08) “I had two reactions to the article…..first, that WE are digital media, high-quality digital media connected locally across all screens….if GM is looking for digital opportunities we have them……my second reaction is one of concern for GM and the risks of going too far, too fast with the transition to digital……your core customer spends more than 50% of their total media time watching TV.”

*(8/4/08) “GM has an upper funnel problem, not enough awareness,  consideration and favorability. I think the facts argue that GM is overly focused on the in-market customer when in reality the game has been lost by then……there seems to be little evidence that the switch to interactive media is working well for GM. It seems like a huge gamble.”

*(9/25/08) “GM’s volume-driven declines in Tier 2 TV spending have radically imperiled your effective share of voice……shifting dollars to the internet places too much focus on too few potential customers. This becomes a truly critical problem when your branding in support of upper funnel consumers dries up as it has.”