There is a big story in the American trade press. General Motors,
it is reported, is cutting back severely on its magazine spend. This has
to be taken seriously (see story below). It is the magazine medium’s
largest advertiser, spending more than dollars 500 million per annum.
Publishers may claim to be sanguine about the news, but it’s impossible
to believe them.
GM is anxious to use magazines more effectively. Reports suggest the
company is concerned it may not be targeting consumers tightly, which
suggests that broader-based titles will be harder hit. They also suggest
GM is asking its agencies to justify using spreads and inserts against
single-page ads. It wants more rigorous testing of print executions. An
executive is quoted as saying: ’Print has to do more to prove its
In the UK, Vauxhall told Campaign that there are no plans to follow
suit, although publishing houses here must be watching developments
To be fair, it appears the UK magazine industry itself is alert to any
potential threat. The Periodical Publishers Association’s Quality of
Readership Survey, launched last month, is just the kind of research
initiative one presumes GM would commend. The results - due out in two
weeks - will be fascinating.
The story proves yet again that clients are not happy about
advertising’s lack of accountability. As if proof were needed, you need
only turn to the speeches of Simon Bullimore of Mars and Michael Hebel
of Unilever at last week’s ISBA conference on the subject of the cost of
TV airtime in the UK. They echoed the views expressed forthrightly by
Procter & Gamble’s Paul Polman at last year’s event. One year on, is
there any sign that the TV sales houses are listening?
They would do well to. In the past few weeks I’ve studied some
fascinating and innovative media plans as a judge at a big media
agency’s internal awards. The recurring theme was that the prohibitive
cost of television advertising forced the agency to recommend
alternative media. In turn, the decision not to use television did not
restrict the agency’s planners, but actually coaxed more inventive and -
apparently - effective plans out of them. There’s a parallel with the
creativity that has resulted from the ever more burdensome regulation of
The television advertising sales community would do well to ponder
levels of accountability as it sits down this week at the Barcelona
One of the many disappointments of last year’s event in Monte Carlo was
the failure to address accountability. Old hands may dismiss this
subject as an old chestnut, and claim nothing ever changes. But they may
suddenly wake up to find themselves the victim of a GM-style initiative.
They can’t say they haven’t been warned.