GM Chief: Ads Going to ‘Where Our Customers Are Going’ — The Internet

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By: Jennifer Saba

This morning, publishers heard from a representative from one of the most important retail advertisers, Macy’s. This afternoon, attendees at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual conference got an earful from the automotive industry.

G. Richard Wagoner Jr., chairman and CEO of General Motors, explained to the audience during a keynote luncheon speech this afternoon why GM ad spend is down in newspapers. Just like Macy’s, GM has shifted its strategy and the way it reaches customers. Just like newspapers, GM is being forced to change its busines model.

“We are less focused on the deal of the month,” said Wagoner. “We’re not buying spots continuously.” As such, the endless stream of ad buys promoting huge deals is slowing considerably.

But he suggested that GM is moving to buy more advertorial space in newspapers.

More to the point, Wagoner told a group of newspaper executives that his company is going to “where our customers are going” — i.e. the Internet — and that is why newspaper auto advertising has decreased over the last several years.

There are opportunities for newspapers to gain more ad dollars, including opportunities to reach people on a global scale. GM wants to “raise the bar on creative work” and the company is “open to new thinking from newspapers,” said Wagoner.

Wagoner echoed an earlier sentiment expressed this morning by Macy’s CMO Anne MacDonald: Newspapers should leverage its trusted content which is “accurate, fact-based and unbiased,” noted Wagoner. “You have an advantage in this area over your digital counterparts.”

Meanwhile, outgoing NAA Chairman Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. presented Frank Batten Sr., the retired chairman of the board and CEO of Landmark Communications, with the Katherine Graham Lifetime Achievement Award. Frank Batten Jr. accepted the award on behalf of his father.

The Lifetime Achievement Award, established in 1998, is not given annually. It recognizes individuals whose leadership and contributions to the newspaper industry have been exemplary. It was renamed the Katherine Graham Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 the year the former chair, CEO and publisher of The Washington Post was honored posthumously.

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