Star zones out for dealers

Geographically targeted print advertising is nothing new for flyers, but it's certainly a new twist for the Classifieds.

Geographically targeted print advertising is nothing new for flyers, but it’s certainly a new twist for the Classifieds.

And in the form of a new section in the Toronto Star enabling car dealers to zone in on more targeted audiences at lower costs, it’s a new twist already getting accolades from buyers and dealers alike.

The new weekly four-colour ad supplement, called Auto Zone, was launched on Sept. 18, featuring three separate editions covering the east, west and central Greater Toronto Area. Advertising material covers approximately eight pages in each edition, and is restricted to car dealers based within the appropriate zone.

‘In the past, car dealers had to buy mass ad space, but a dealer based in Mississauga does not necessarily want exposure in Oshawa,’ explains Cathy Wilson, group-advertising director at the Toronto Star. With Auto Zone, the Star is able to sell three times as much ad space for the same printing and distribution costs, so the cost to dealers is considerably less. In fact, as little as $25 will buy a two-column 34-line colour Classified ad in the new section.

The idea of zoning has been used for years in the form of flyers, but for a newspaper, the territory is relatively uncharted, according to Bruce Claassen, CEO of Toronto-based Genesis Media.

‘It’s a terrific idea that gives you much more flexibility,’ says Claassen. ‘If you’re a dealer in Mississauga it’s unlikely you could draw readers from Scarborough, so it makes sense to concentrate your dollars in your own area.’

Colette Berry, print manager at Initiative Media in Toronto, agrees. ‘This is something quite radical for a newspaper,’ she says. ‘It could be very applicable to certain clients who have stores in different areas and want to do local events. If you can zone within print it gives you more competitiveness,’ she adds.

Auto Zone, a joint initiative with the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), also benefits dealers by excluding used-car ads from private, unlicensed owners who take used-car business away from the dealers.

‘One out of every five Classified ads in the Toronto market is from a curbsider,’ says Craig Riley, president of the TADA, which is owned and operated by 330 new-car dealers. ‘What this initiative does is set us apart from other advertising vehicles with a quality consumer product that allows for more affordable advertising.’ Consumers looking to buy a car also benefit, Wilson says, from a wealth of ad material that is relevant to them.

The initiative was previously tested with a monthly version that ran from May to September this year. ‘Feedback from dealers was excellent,’ says Wilson, adding that many participating dealers saw increased traffic to their dealerships as a result, although no quantitative figures are available.

In the next three to six months, Wilson anticipates that the Star will be surveying readers to gauge the success of the new section. ‘The aim is to connect buyers and sellers, so we’ll be asking people where they found their car,’ she says.