May 18, 2012 / 7:21 PM / 7 years ago

GM passes on running TV ads during 2013 Super Bowl

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co will not advertise in next year’s Super Bowl because it is too expensive, the top marketing executive for the U.S. automaker said three days after the company announced it was dropping paid ads on Facebook Inc.

A General Motors logo is seen on a Denali vehicle for sale at the GM dealership in Carlsbad, California January 4, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The 2013 Super Bowl will be broadcast by CBS Corp, which is selling 30-second ads for as much as $4 million.

Spots on NBC’s broadcast of this year’s National Football League championship game, the most heavily watched annual event on U.S. television, cost about $3.5 million per 30-second spot. NBC is majority-owned by Comcast Corp.

“We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price we simply can’t justify the expense,” GM global marketing chief Joel Ewanick said in a statement.

GM, which ran four ads during this year’s Super Bowl broadcast, also chose not to advertise during the Super Bowl in 2009, just ahead of its June filing for bankruptcy protection.

CBS spokesman Dana McClintock declined to comment.

When the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots for the Super Bowl title in February, more than 111 million Americans tuned in, making it the most-watched TV program in U.S. history.

The NFL championship game annually draws the biggest viewing audience and advertisers jockey for the available TV spots, which makes GM’s absence something CBS is not likely to miss, analysts said.

“A couple of years ago, GM pulled out of the Super Bowl. I don’t think that had too much impact on pricing,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at research firm Horizon Media. “It’s an opportunity for others. I would venture a guess that someone would pick up the slack and see this as an opportunity.”

The largest advertisers in Super Bowls every year include automakers, movie studios and beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev.

GM, which ranks behind Procter & Gamble Co and AT&T Inc in advertising spending, spent $1.1 billion on U.S. ads last year, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media. Overall, GM’s spending on advertising rose 5.2 percent last year to $4.48 billion, according to the automaker’s annual report.

From 2002 to 2011, GM ranked as the third-largest advertiser during the Super Bowl - behind Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo - at $82.8 million, said Kantar Media, which is owned by WPP Plc. It spent another $21 million during this year’s game.

GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said the 2012 advertising budget will be about even with last year. But GM has been shifting its marketing budget around, announcing on Tuesday it would stop running paid ads on Facebook because they had little impact on consumer behavior.

Ewanick has led a consolidation of GM’s ad agencies globally that is expected to save the Detroit company $2 billion over five years.

However, analyst Michelle Krebs questioned GM’s decision.

“It feels premature for GM to make such a big decision regarding Super Bowl, especially since GM will be launching a new line of full-size pickup trucks and full-size SUVs around Super Bowl time,” she said. “The Super Bowl audience is ideal for those vehicles and the timing is right.”

Next year, GM will begin selling new versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, which analysts say generate profit of $12,000 to $14,000 per vehicle.

Super Bowl ads, when successful, generate attention far beyond the game. One of GM’s four TV ads during this year’s game depicted an apocalyptic scene in which some Silverado owners escape death and make it to a prearranged meeting point. But a friend who drives a Ford pickup fails to arrive.

The ad, which played off the Mayan culture’s prediction that the world would end in 2012, rankled No. 2 automaker Ford, which called on GM to pull the ad. GM refused.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York and Deepa Seetharaman in Detroit; editing by Tim Dobbyn, Andre Grenon and Matthew Lewis

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