ADVERTISING BUDGETS are growing faster than car sales or inflation. The 12 automakers with the biggest ad budgets in Europe spent 9.1 percent more last year than the top 12 in 1996. European sales rose by only 4.3 percent in the period.
'Only rarely does there appear to be any correlation between changes in the advertising spend and the sales pattern,' said Robert Tansey, account executive at London-based agency Publicis, known for its Renault campaigns. 'Nor is there a pan-European norm for the preferred medium, with TV unchallenged in some markets and print predominant in others.'
The 12 spent $3.7 billion on TV, print, radio, roadside posters and cinema in Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain, according to Optimedia, a research firm in Paris.
Renault remained Europe's biggest advertiser with a $563 million budget, up 18.6 percent. General Motors and Ford moved ahead of Peugeot last year.
Nissan, Toyota and Volvo joined the top 12 while Daimler-Benz, BMW and Seat dropped out.
The comparisons take into account currency fluctuations and the advertising industry's revised figures for 1996.
Germany: Renault spent almost 25 percent more on advertising to bolster its position as the country's No. 1 importer. Renault sales rose by 11.8 percent compared to an overall market increase of less than 1 percent.
Ford was the only major carmaker to spend more on TV advertising than on print in Germany.
UK: Market leader Ford increased its budget by more than one-third and displaced GM's Vauxhall as top spender.
Ford halved its spending on radio but moved heavily into roadside posters. In 1996, Ford spent virtually nothing on posters. Only Toyota spent more than Ford in the medium in 1997.
Vauxhall cut spending on outdoor but increased its commitment to TV, print and radio. Altogether, it spent 14 percent more on ads and saw sales rise by 3.7 percent.
Renault, the UK's top importer last year, was the third-biggest advertiser. It raised spending in all media, including a 100 percent increase in print ads and almost as much on radio.
TV was the favored UK automotive ad medium, though print was close behind. Cinema was less popular overall than in 1996.
France: Renault maintained its heavy ad domination. Significant increases for TV and cinema campaigns and a small increase for print more than outweighed cutbacks for radio and outdoor.
Peugeot, Citroen, Ford and Fiat/Lancia all cut back on overall budgets in response to poor market conditions last year.
Television was the top medium.
Italy: Fiat remained by far the biggest spender in its home market, though its 1997 budget increased less than 5 percent. Fiat cut TV spending substantially and invested far more in print advertising.
Renault spent 24 percent more in 1997, putting its biggest effort into print advertising.
The market was up 39 percent in 1997 thanks to a government scrapping incentive. The carmakers took advantage of conditions and free publicity, so overall ad spending by the top 12 was down by 2.8 percent.
Spain: Renault became the top ad spender, increasing its budget by more than 20 percent. GM's Opel spent one-third more to rank second. Peugeot, the top 1996 spender, was the only auto advertiser to spend less in Spain and dropped to third place overall.
TV was by far the preferred medium for getting to Spanish customers. All except Peugeot and Ford spent more on television.