The details behind Clear Channel and 9News public-service announcements for car dealers

Yesterday morning, during one of his regular updates on KOA/850 AM's morning-news broadcast, Channel 9 business reporter Gregg Moss talked about a new series of public-service announcements for the automobile industry that would begin running immediately on Clear Channel stations like KOA, as well as on Channel 9 and its sister station, Channel 20 -- and he wasn't exaggerating. The instant his segment ended, viewers heard one of the aforementioned spots, which spent thirty seconds extolling the virtues of buying a vehicle now despite the well-known problems presently shaking the nation's economy.

The campaign -- which was inspired by PSAs assembled by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) that can be heard and watched after the jump -- is unusual, to put it mildly. Generally, public-service announcements are reserved for nonprofits or charitable concerns, not regular advertisers. But according to Tim Jackson, who's both president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) and executive vice president and secretary for the Metropolitan Denver Automobile Dealers Association (MDADA), an organization that's name-checked in the Clear Channel spots, desperate times call for desperate measures. "We don't know where this economy is going, or what the federal stimulus package will be able to do," he says. "But we're all in this together. And this is a local-sector attempt to stimulate the economy."

The NADA campaign first ran in the Phoenix area and included radio spots stressing that dealers have access to credit and will be able to find financing for just about anyone.

Click here to check out the first ad


click here to listen to a second one

; and

click here to get a sense of a third

. In addition, a TV ad was created to convey the same message. Watch it here:

Did Denver dealers contact area stations to see if they might be interested in running similar material? Surprisingly enough, no. Instead, Jackson says, Clear Channel and the folks at Channel 9 reached out to the CADA and MDADA, offered to produce their own variations on these spots at no charge, and then played the final results for dealer reps to make sure they approved.

That's extraordinary service, but it also makes sense. Over the years, automobile dealers have been among the top advertisers on local radio and TV, generating a profit foundation for broadcast outlets. Now, of course, the car market is in the worst funk in recent memory, and that's forced dealers to cut back on advertising or look for other, cheaper ways to let customers know about deals. (The February 3 More Messages blog "Will More Car Dealers Advertise on YouTube Instead of Buying Expensive TV Commercials?" offers one example of this phenomenon.) Nevertheless, stations want to maintain strong relationships with dealers, so that when the economy rebounds, they'll return to the fold, ad dollars in tow -- and what better way to do so than to screen de facto commercials for free?

Jackson thinks the PSAs benefit everyone -- even consumers. "It's a challenging time in the industry and in the economy," he concedes. "There's a lack of consumer confidence out there about big-ticket purchases. But the result of that sometimes makes big-ticket purchases bigger bargains. In the automotive arena, at least, there are lots of rebates, manufacturers cash incentives and other value-oriented opportunities in new-vehicle purchases. And this is another way to let people know about that."

Expect more outlets to join the chorus. Jackson says he recently received an inquiry about the PSA program from Bob Call, Denver market manager for Lincoln Financial Media, which owns five radio properties here -- among them ratings powerhouses KS-107.5 and KYGO/98.5 FM. If other broadcasters follow suit, listeners may soon be hearing and seeing as many car-dealer ads as ever, even if stations aren't making a dime from many of them.

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