Automakers Could Gain Social Traction in Huffington Post Ad Rep Deal

A new partnership between The Huffington Post and a Detroit-based ad rep firm could help automakers gain more social media traction. The news and opinion site has teamed with Focus Media and Marketing, a marketing sales and consulting firm with strong ties to automotive brand advertisers. For Huffington Post, the goal is to garner brand ad dollars from automakers Ford, Chrysler, and GM, as they return to market following the severe economic downturn.

“We’ve had no coverage of Detroit,” said chief revenue officer Greg Coleman, who said the publisher’s ad sales team has been “visiting Detroit from California” – not exactly an efficient sales call.

Coleman stressed the site’s readership, which he said has an average household income of $100K, as appealing to auto advertisers. Yet, he also suggested that auto advertisers – among the first vertical to truly embrace online advertising – will be interested in spreading the word about new vehicle models “in a more viral manner.” The publisher has recently run social media enabled ads for GE. It also has sold sponsorships of Twitter feeds displayed on its site related to events like the Davos World Economic Forum and the Ted Conference to HSBC and Cisco, according to Coleman.

“We’re allowing live Twitter feeds to run through a sponsored ad unit,” said Coleman. “There are plenty of events that the automotive world sponsors on TV and online that they should be the sponsor of in social media….They’re classic candidates especially if they really believe they have a breakthrough car launch.”

Automakers “are very interested in how to tap into the energy and the strength of what social media can do,” said Ken Stubblefield, president of Focus Media Marketing. “Online is obviously becoming a core component of automotive marketing and social has become an important part of it as well,” he said.

Stubblefield suggested Huffington Post will help facilitate more social media interaction between auto brands and the site’s readers, mainly because they are active in social media. “A tremendous amount of their readers really get involved in blogging and Facebook pages and Twitter…. That’s the kind of thing that automotive marketers are really interested in,” he said.

Ford has been especially dedicated to social media marketing. The company has gained recognition for using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, and other social platforms in an effort to humanize its brand.

Focus Media’s three sales partners will sell Huffington Post ad opportunities direct to Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, said Stubblefield. Huffington Post said this is the first time it has worked with an ad sales rep to target the large U.S. automakers.

The deal is part of the site’s national sales expansion, according to company statement. Coleman told ClickZ News in January he expects ad revenue to multiply by six times in the next three years. At that time, Huffington Post announced it had created three new senior sales positions based on the East and West Coasts, and in Washington, D.C., and hired a new director of sales operations.

UPDATE: This story was updated to include comments from Greg Coleman.

You can follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at LowbrowKate.

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