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Drive Away Happy: 5 Rules for Auto Advertisers

Posted by Scott Swanson on August 20th, 2012 at 5:39 am
We use our smartphones for pretty much everything these days --  including shopping for a new car. Potential new car owners are using apps and the mobile web to:

  • Find nearby dealers
  • Schedule test drives
  • Ask their peers for advice & recommendations
  • Research new models
  • Request more information

Many car manufacturers have stepped up to meet the challenges of the mobile car-shopper. They’re using mobile websites that are full of rich graphics and content such as videos, photo galleries, feature comparisons, “car configurators” and loan calculators that enhance the auto shopping experience, and taking into consideration the preferences of different demographics (e.g., Millennials vs. Baby Boomers). Through a combination of targeted search and display ads, they are driving purchase intent and directing new traffic to local dealerships. Landing pages are being cleverly utilized  to build opt-in databases for ongoing consumer engagement and CRM activities.

But it’s not quite time to celebrate -- not yet. As the automotive industry taps into this new medium and increases its reliance on mobile ads as a way to reach target audiences, there are several important things to consider:

1. Know your (geographical) limits. Location-based advertising is valuable in the auto sector, especially when it comes to attracting consumers to come into a local dealership for a test drive. Landing pages should include dealer locators and test drive sign-ups to help drive that action. But advertisers have to be careful not to target too granularly or they’ll run into problems of scale. Namely, that standard mobile web browsing is not hyperlocal (i.e., street corner) and apps will only contain GPS data if the user allows it. Trying to get too granular will hamper the volume you need to run an effective campaign.

2. Contextual targeting is still top dog. Behavioral targeting is growing in popularity among mobile advertisers, with 54% of them using this tactic, but contextual and keyword-relevant placements are still more popular, with 64% adoption. “Editorially aligned” mobile ads served to a US-based audience see up to 5X higher clickthrough rates, according to eMarketer:

The ability to align ad creative with site content undoubtedly creates a more cohesive user experience and helps brands more closely approximate users who may be in-market for related products and services. When this type of advertising experience is coupled with an advertising channel that naturally attracts in-market consumers—mobile, for example—the results are even better.

On top of CTR, contextual targeting also seems to yield higher conversion rates, mainly due to better optimization. For automobile advertisers, this means getting key placements on mobile sites and apps like Car & Driver and Digital Trends to not only reach their target demographic but to increase likelihood of conversion and engagement.

3. Tracking is tricky. Not all mobile ad networks support third-party tracking, so it is important to determine if your preferred 3rd-party tracking program is compatible with your mobile partners. As we’ve noted, tracking is mobile is difficult enough without these types of incompatibility obstacles, so definitely check on this.

4. Don’t lose sight of the sites. The ever increasing number of mobile ad networks has made it even more difficult to determine the unique offering of each, and where your impressions are really coming from. When using mobile ad platforms, transparency is becoming a bigger need, especially for automotive brands that naturally require a higher level of brand safety and understanding of where their ads are running.

5. Get as rich as you can. With automotive more so than any other industry, you’re selling a lifestyle, and that lifestyle has to be attractive. Use rich media to pull in and engage the mobile consumer. Men, for example, are more likely to pay attention to ads that contain video (13.1% vs. 9.9% of women), and informative, animated ads are more likely to get the attention of all smartphone and tablet owners, according to a July study by Prosper Mobile Insights.

In addition, our creative partner Celtra has found that auto-related rich media campaigns result in an average engagement rate of 20%, so be sure to allow for rich media executions in your budget.

Consumers in market for a new car are by far one of the most in-demand groups that we've been seeing from advertisers, with hot competition from multiple brands, all vying for the attention of the right audience. With such a big ticket item, the return on a mobile ad buy -- done right -- can be tremendous.

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