For 20 years they have been the bread and butter for local television stations. The automotive category (No.1 category for local broadcast TV) was down 29.3% in the 4th quarter of 2008. Car and truck dealers, a category in their own right, dropped 32.8%. Restaurants, insurance and furniture stores also declined.
Total broadcast TV revenues were down 6.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to a Television Bureau of Advertising report.
So why I am encouraged?
A note in AdAge that got little attention last week.
Jean Halliday reported that automakers seem to be returning to TV. Time Warner’s Turner networks — TNT, TBS and TruTV — have seen an increase in automotive ad spending the past couple of weeks, a spokeswoman for Turner entertainment channels told Advertising Age. Another broadcast network said it has recently seen auto marketers making scatter purchases.
Spring is an important selling season for car dealers. People want to trade in that older model that made it through the winter, cars make great graduation gifts, and the fact that people who normally would have gone to the dealers sat out the past six months to see how the economy would shake out.
The auto industry has got to get its message out and quite frankly, the internet is a great place to research a car purchase, but only through television can you get a sense of what it is going to feel like when punch that pedal to the floor board.
Automotive as a category may never return to vaunted place in the hearts of Local Sales Managers everywhere, but the return of auto dollars is a good sign for the local TV business.