Some days ago an editor-in-chief of a computer magazine asked me why car brands wouldn’t advertise in his magazine. After all, the magazine’s target group is formed by men, relatively well-off, with a stronger than average interest in all things technical. That sounds like the ideal fit for any car brand. And cars are becoming more and more computerised: with in-car entertainment systems, social media integration, and apps-like dashboard functionality. Still, in spite of all these developments, they hadn’t succeeded in landing a car brand as an advertiser.
The answer to the question isn’t that easy. Of course car marketeers - generally speaking – aren’t exactly leading in cross-over approaches when it comes to media buying. Most tend to stick to what they know: car magazines and dailies for their more general brands and/or models, women’s magazines for their smaller, women’s models, general lifestyle media for their niche brands or models, be it sporty or luxurious etc. With the exception of the aspiring types that want their cars advertised next to world-leading brands, hoping that some of their appeal will rub off on theirs. Then it is up to the media to judge whether they want to see these cars featured next to ads and articles on YSL, Porsche, Crystal or Audemars-Piquet. And if they’re smart, they don’t.
The computer industry doesn’t really have such iconic brands, apart perhaps from Apple. Google and Microsoft are without a doubt, strong brands in the industry, but as they are mainly software companies, they are less appealing for car companies, which are in essence hardware companies. All this makes it hard for car brands to associate themselves with strong – or preferably even stronger - brands featured in a computer magazine.
So how can a computer magazine make itself attractive to prospective advertisers from the car industry? One idea is to simply start writing about cars. That will get them noticed by car marketeers. After all, they are thus adding relevance for the group of consumers interested in cars. However, that is walking a fine line. After all, people reading computer magazines, however male, well-off or electronics-minded they may be, first and foremost want to read about computer technology in their favorite computer mag. Just like the fashionista reads Vogue for its fashion articles and wouldn’t be too pleased if she were suddenly confronted with the latest Intel computer processor technology out of a fashion context.
But even computer magazines can be a platform for car companies’ messages, as could fashion magazines. It all comes down to relevance. Computer journalists and car marketeers need to step out of their comfort zones to find those areas where the interests of the car buyers and computer lovers meet. The messages found there are much too complex for something as ‘simple’ as advertising. This is the domain of content: branded content to be exact. In this relatively new disipline of communication, marketing messages get carefully interwoven with journalistic content. This requires true co-operation between editors and marketeers to discover compelling messages and storylines, interesting backgrounds and the visionary outlook that consumers are looking for. Written in a way that suits the editor, the magazine and – most importantly – suits the readers, with factual information, neutrality, relevance, and a personal angle. Happy crossing!