I once had a client that knew her brand was going to be the subject of a negative TV news story on a local station she advertised on. Her first instinct was to buy even more spots to counterbalance the story. I’m not sure whether it would’ve helped or hurted, but I do remember my Account Director tried to talk her out of buying more spots, to let some time pass.
In Georgia, Florida and a few other states, an organization called the Southeast Toyota Dealers pool their money to buy time. They’re not happy with the coverage they’ve been getting from ABC, and are taking it out on local ABC affiliates. ABC News has more:
Toyota dealers in five southeast states have pulled their commercials off ABC TV local affiliates, complaining about the coverage of Toyota safety problems by ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross.
The ad agency representing the 173 dealers told ABC affiliates last week that the shift was due to “excessive stories on the Toyota issues.” The dealers shifted their commercial time buys to non-ABC stations in the same markets, “as punishment for the reporting,” according to an ABC station manager.
This story, as well as some discussion on the most recent episode of The BeanCast, reminded me that it’s not going to be Toyota in Japan or the brand’s American headquarters that has the most sway over customer perception–it’s the dealers.
Dealers will be the ones seeing the panic in customers’ eyes. The onus will be on them to fix the problem and deal with an influx of car owners who often go out of their way to drive to the dealership for service. How the Toyota dealers handle every aspect of that service experience will be crucial. The Southeast Toyota Dealers have every right to reshuffle their media mix, but they have to do the right thing by their customers, or the problem won’t go away.
(DISCLOSURE: I don’t own one now, but my family’s owned 3 Toyotas and got 105,000, 180,000 miles and 120,000 miles out of them, respectively.)