General Motors' withdrawal of national car ads from the L.A. Times is getting lots of play. Investors Business Daily quotes a marketer calling it "a remarkably nonsavvy move." The New York Times quotes another saying, "It's a lot like when you have an argument with one of your relatives and you don't talk to each other for a while," and makes the point that these sorts of acts are seldom made by the ad or marketing people in a company — they usually come from a peeved CEO or someone close to the top. Just days before, Pulitzer-winning auto columnist Dan Neil had panned the new Pontiac G6 and urged GM to fire its top brass like a losing ball team. Add NYT:
"It's archaic and na´ve to not recognize that there ought to be a strong dividing line in the media between editorial content and advertising," said Michael Draznin, president of Marketing Branding Communications, a consulting company in New York. "They should not influence each other."
You do wonder what GM expects to gain. It's doubtful they will sell more cars by running fewer ads, and it's even less likely to get them better press, at least in the LAT. Sure the Times could lose $10 million, if GM stays out for an entire year, but that's not a lot in the overall $1 billion budget — and GM still advertises in other Tribune papers (and local dealers are still in the Times.) Newspaper journalists love ignoring advertiser whines, so if anyone on the business side tried to influence the coverage, especially now, it would almost surely become a story. And if an editor tried to rein in Neil, he could take his Pulitzer to the NYT. A bigger issue for the Times may be if GM decides the paper just doesn't have enough penetration in Southern California anymore to be worth the cost. Blogger Dan Riehl speculates it's about a new GM marketing strategy, while the blog Jalopnik files it under the category of GM Death Watch.
* But also: Editor & Publisher ran a story on Friday (spotted at Kausfiles) saying that Prudential Equity Group thinks the LAT stands to lose $21 million a year — and that GM had recently become the paper's biggest advertiser, "by a significant amount....It should be of 'great concern for Tribune and the management at the Times, as losing this revenue, even short-term, will hurt.'"