Chrysler Tuning Out on TV

July 10, 2005
Later tonight, I plan to watch the HBO series, "Six Feet Under." I may stay around for the movie that follows, but that's likely to be the extent of my television viewing for the next week. Sure, my friends rave about series like "24," and the various "CSI" spin-offs, but I've lost the television viewing habit. Chances are, so have many of you. And even if you haven't cut back on your daily TV tally, you're likely not watching the same channels you did a decade ago. That's ironic, because even as network television's viewership steadily declines, its advertising rates steadily rise. It's an equation that grates on a guy like George Murphy, The global marketing director for Chrysler, he knows the formula in the auto industry is more (car) for less (money).

So Murphy has been making a big switch in his company's ad spending. At the beginning of the decade, a whopping 75 percent of Chrysler's bucks went to TV, and the majority of that to the networks. Now the television total is down to 55 percent, and cable is getting a much larger share of that smaller pie. As you can imagine, Chrysler's overall ad spending is not down. So there's more money to spend on the internet, on print, on local and network radio and on new event marketing programs -- like the customer test drives the Jeep division set up during this year's New York and Chicago auto shows. They paid off big-time in terms of new buyers, Murphy reports.

You can't completely walk away from TV, he is quick to stress, Chrysler's new ad campaign with Lee Iacocca is an example of why it's still the best way to quickly reach a mass audience. But Chrysler's television budget will continue to decline by 3 to 5 percent each year, according to Murphy. And plenty of other automakers, such as Scion, Mini and even General Motors are tuning out, as well. Other industries are trimming back, as well, though overall network spending is up again. For now, anyway. Even giant consumer goods maker P&G is rethinking its budget. Maybe the folks that bring you the evening sitcoms will eventually have to rethink their own formula.

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