DR Jump-Starts the Automotive Industry1 Oct, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
New technology has allowed marketers to reach consumers in more places and to create more targeted advertising. In addition, new methods are often a relief on wallets during crunched economic circumstances. Mike Cassidy is the founder and CEO of Undertone Networks, a New York-based online advertising network that drives brand awareness and DR initiatives with a blend of high-impact ad formats, rich media, targeting capabilities and personalized service. Cassidy says that while a bulk of Undertone's clients are still advertising offline — with only 10-20 percent of budgets dedicated to online — he hopes that in the next five years the budgets will shift to meet consumers's behavior.
"Most car shoppers turn to the Internet to find what they are looking for before ever meeting a dealer, so it makes sense that the auto manufacturers have publicly declared they are allocating more marketing budget to search and display advertising online," says Cassidy. He also notes that marketers are using the online channel to post videos and full-page ads that mirror the benefits they see from traditional advertising — branding and awareness through sight, sound and motion.
"These days, most buyers arrive at a dealership ready to buy after extensively researching options and prices online," says Cassidy. "Savvy auto marketers are leveraging behavioral insights and data gained about shoppers during the research/interest stages to promote sales events, launch cars or generate leads." And using the convergence of technology and targeting, marketers are able to follow customers through the pathway from browser to buyer.
Cassidy warns that while technology will always help marketers reach consumers further along the purchasing funnel, they can feel overwhelmed by the volume of data and channels available. The key? Do not ask for more technology, but better ways to interpret and understand the audience data at every stage of the funnel.
"Insights, accountability and performance results are the future of the automotive industry — not just new technology," he says.
Stephen Berkov is the executive director of client strategy at Edmunds, a company that engages and educates automotive consumers, enthusiasts and insiders. Edmunds was founded back in the 1960s as a print publication for automotive data, and now is strictly online. Berkov refers to Edmunds as the place consumers go to when they want to know anything about cars, similar to Amazon for books and Cnet for computers.
While the company owns four branded sites with different services for car buyers, one of its most prominent services is its role as a decision-making site — the first step in the car-buying process. Edmunds has a social media dedicated Web site, http://CarSpace.com/; an industry commentary and analysis site, http://AutoObserver.com/; and for automotive enthusiasts, InsideLine.com. All of these complement the decision-making site, http://Edmunds.com/.
Berkov agrees that television commercials for cars are becoming passé, and digital and other technological channels are more economically sound choices. "We don't know if a person is really in the market to buy a car, so why waste money when you know there are authoritative decision sites," he says. Plus, he warns that brands cannot just focus on their own Web sites, but have to advertise and reach consumers on decision-making sites like Edmunds.
The thinking is that once a consumer reaches the branded car site, he or she has already decided what kind of car to buy and is just focusing in on model or style. "There is so much data we get from activity on our Web sites, and the beauty is, it's not what they say they are doing, it is what they are actually doing," says Berkov. He recalls the Cash for Clunkers program, saying the leads and the success of the program could be tracked on the Web site and how quickly those results dropped off when the deal ended.
Many automotive marketers are also embracing the technology given them to interact with consumers on a daily basis, such as online social networks. Berkov says that online communities are now a great way to hear what consumers are saying about the product. It's also a place for product planning and improvement. Today, marketers are learning how to participate in those conversations, without quelling voices. One of the biggest challenges is qualifying how online social communities affect a marketing campaign. As Schoonover points out, marketers can quantify who is talking and how often, but the quality of the conversation is still the unknown.