Last week, Trader Media Group launched a £5 million multimedia marketing effort to address Auto Trader's sliding circulation by widening its target audience.
Recent circulation figures show that the title recorded a 3.8 per cent year-on-year slide to 351,654. The reason, according to the publisher, is that the market it has traditionally been associated with - car-savvy men - has limited scope for growth.
The challenge now for Auto Trader and its agencies is to break the perception that the title is only for those who understand the workings of cars and know exactly what kind of car they want.
Paul Kirkley, a board account director at Auto Trader's creative agency, J. Walter Thompson, says: "There is an uncomfortable feeling among consumers that it's just for the motor trade."
To address the problem, JWT and Auto Trader's media agency, MediaCom Scotland, worked together to develop a multifaceted campaign to expand its audience.
"The campaign has to be careful not to get rid of its existing readers, while engaging those who have resisted it in the past," Euan Jarvie, the managing director at MediaCom Scotland, says. "It's a product for everyone rather than just men."
The creative uses the "perfect partners" idea that was developed by Auto Trader's previous agency, Faulds Advertising, in 2000 and is based on the importance of the relationship that consumers have with their cars.
It extends the idea by comparing it with personal relationships and emphasising how important it is to find the right partner.
TV ads feature unlikely celebrity pairs: Tara Palmer-Tomkinson is teamed with Frankie Dettori, David Soul with Flat Eric and Terry Christian with June Whitfield.
Matt Thompson, the marketing director at Trader Media Group, says: "Our agencies are close to our business objectives and we took their advice on the strategy to use."
The spots will run on terrestrial and digital channels such as Sky, the UK TV channels, E4, ITV2, Viacom and the Sci-Fi Channel around peak programming.
The TV ads are complemented by six-sheet posters, bought by Posterscope, positioned near newsagents to remind consumers about the magazine at the point of purchase. The posters continue the theme, but feature odd pairs such as a white mouse and a computer mouse and an inappropriate twin-town marker.
There will also be point-of-sale promotion, developed in-house, to draw attention to the magazines and an online campaign, through RMG:blackcat, to the users of autotrader.co.uk.
The perfect partners idea is also being used in a PR initiative, through Gekko Partners, based on new research called the National Perfect Partners Report, which surveyed 12,277 users of Auto Trader's website, for insights on their relationships. Gail Porter will talk about the findings on radio.
Trade marketing also plays a key role. A direct mailing, containing T-shirts with "I Love Auto Trader" and "The UK's No.1" slogans on them, has been sent out to car dealerships. Staff are being encouraged to wear the T-shirts by a competition that invites them to send in pictures of themselves wearing them in unusual situations. The winner will get a £10,000 trip to New York.
The strategic use of media in the marketing assault means it can reach the wide audience it seeks to engage with, while point-of-sale activity should help increase the number of sales.
Client: Trader Media Group
Media: TV, outdoor, sales promotion, direct mail, online
Agencies: J. Walter Thompson, MediaCom Scotland, Posterscope,
RMG:blackcat, Gekko Partners
Media idea: Help widen Auto Trader's appeal with a mix of media and
encourage sales with point-of-sale activity