Retail Front

Is End Near for Dealer Newspaper Advertising?

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Some detractors claim newspaper advertising is as archaic as putting sandwich boards on bums and having them walk around town trying to drum up business.

Well, first off, lately I’ve seen a lot of guys carrying signs touting specials and such at local businesses. So, that quaint form of advertising still has legs, figuratively and literally.

Secondly, it always seems the people who warn that the end is near for newspaper advertising are Internet marketers. They hardly are neutral parties on the subject of potential ad-budget reallocation that may help them.

Sure, Internet advertising is here to stay. But that doesn't mean everything else must go.

Auto dealers are well-advised to partake in the likes of search-engine marketing and optimization, online banner ads and interactive websites that draw customers to the store.

But to dump all other forms of advertising – on the advice of Internet lobbyists, no less – seems like emptying out the refrigerator because you bought more food.

Auto dealers, who spend a lot on advertising, use different approaches for different markets. They are smart enough to know what works well and where. Sometimes it is the Internet, sometimes newspapers and sometimes neither.

For example, Gordon Stewart, who owns dealerships in metro Detroit and southern states, does 100% radio spots in the Motor City and 100% TV below the Mason-Dixon line. Why? Because he has found that is what is most effective for the respective markets.

Another multi-point dealer, Ed Bozarth, who has five stores in various cities, notes that 400,000 newspapers are distributed daily in one of them, Denver. He wants his message in a medium with a local reach like that. So look for him in the Denver Post.

Chuck Basil, another multiple-franchise dealer, is a force in the Rochester, NY, market. Something else: “We are the biggest print advertiser in our market,” he says.

A lot of his competitors have moved their advertising from newspapers to more modern media. Does that make Basil feel like an endangered species? No. “As more dealers abandoned print, it makes our print ads more effective,” he says.

Popular opinion is that newspapers wept at the shore as they watched Internet marketing set sail.

But one of the biggest and most ambitious Internet-marketing initiatives is Cars.com, owned by a consortium of newspapers. They launched Cars.com as a digital rendition of their automotive classified ads. It has become much more than that. Cars.com is a major player in the online marketplace. Not bad for a bunch of alleged dinosaurs.

Then there is this from the academic front:

I interviewed Keith Pretty, the president of Midland, MI-based Northwood University, which has a strong dealership-management studies program. He told me of his students doing customer surveys at dealerships for AutoTrader.com.

“The students learned interesting things, sometimes unexpected things,” Pretty said. “For instance, one student said she was amazed at how many customers came in with newspaper ads.

“We’re teaching – as many are – the importance of a strong Internet marketing presence. She’s saying the marketplace is more dynamic and varied, if customers are holding print ads.”

Give that kid an “A.”

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What's Retail Front?

Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.

Contributors

Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for WardsAuto.com. His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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