How many dollars does it take to change an auto buyer's mind?
July 20, 2012 10:06 AM   Subscribe

How much do car companies spend on advertising in the US?

I've been doing what I can to learn more about advertising spend and media planning, and I'm really interested to know how much companies spend in any given year. I've been really blown away by the very rough numbers of seen for amount of money spent on advertising, in general (I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the benefit outweighs the cost).

Automotive advertising is a particular area of interest for me, and I'd be interested to know how much the bigger companies (like Ford, Chevy, Honda, etc.) spend to advertise specific models (Focus, Cruze, Civic, etc.). I would guess also that because there are so many people and so many cars in the US, that more is spent there.

Is that true? How much does a given company spend generally, and how much do they spend on particular models? Ranges are fine - is it a couple of million, a couple of hundred million, a couple of billion? Is there a good source to learn more about this type of thing?

posted by taltalim to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
Information in the kind of detail you're looking for us quite difficult to obtain --- for free. Car companies don't necessarily want their competitors to know exactly how much and by what method they're going to advertize their cars. So there are whole industries of consultants and others who attempt to indirectly obtain this info through sources at both car companies and media companies, analyse it and put it all together in digestible format --- and then sell it for a very high price. So you can easily get broad trends but if you want to know (or at least read a well-informed guess on) how much ford is going to spend advertising Rangers you'll have to pay big bucks. For example, a bit of googling will lead you to a report by a group called Borrell associates which says overall automotive ad spend will rise 14% to $30.8 billion in 2012, the report itself costs $995.

It's like this for lots of industry-specific data. Sometimes for areas of strategic importance the government will collect data which it will release publicly (oil production by the US Energy Information Administration, for example). Sometimes acedemics are able to get their hands on a data set, often historic, to use in a paper, sometimes academic libraries will subscribe to some of these $$$$ industry reports for the benefit of their researchers (Jane's Defense Weekly and its dozens of associated publications, for example). If there's a university out there with a vibrant advertising/marketing studies department you might be able to find more info looking at what their professors have published or what their library carries. But yeah, it can be tough.
posted by Diablevert at 10:37 AM on July 20, 2012

GM's 2010 spend was in the neighborhood of $4.26b.

On your point about the costs and benefits of advertising: John Wanamaker, one of the pioneers of the advertising industry, once said "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." I'd say that's still true today (although less so, analytics make it easier to tell what's effective and what's not). I'd expect ad spend as a percentage of overall budget to dip in the coming years.
posted by downing street memo at 10:38 AM on July 20, 2012

It's also hard to untangle the money spent by the manufacturers on model promotion from the money spent by their dealer networks: some of it is fairly tightly connected to national campaigns, some of it promotes individual dealers.
posted by holgate at 10:49 AM on July 20, 2012

My sister is a media supervisor, she used to work on the GM account in a large American City.

There are layers of automotive advertising. There's the factory advertising and then there are groups of dealers who place their own ads separately.

The amount of money involved, as you're learning, is staggering. I know she spent over $1M to do local advertising during the Super Bowl one year. That's just one game! And it was just local!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2012

A lot of ad budgets are cited in news articles:
WSJ - "GM's total 2011 U.S. ad spending of $1.8 billion, according to Kantar Media."

Kantar Media - "Toyota Motor spent $327.8 million, an increase of 8.6 percent."

Additionally, Advertising Age and AdWeek are two good industry publications that will often publish ad spending. If you need more detailed information, TNS or Nielsen are subscription-based syndicated services that aggregate this information.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 9:15 AM on July 21, 2012

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