This past summer, Martini Media composed luxury brand research that looked closely at how brands were leveraging digital to connect with affluent consumers online. Based on recent demand from marketers in the auto industry, we extended our research to further examine brands in the automotive space. What we learned is that, by and large, automakers are following their consumers online. One could say – if one had a tendency to pun – that the automotive is driving the digital channel forward. And while luxury auto brands aren’t exactly leading the pack, they are keeping up quite nicely.
Agencies report that auto brands are moving into digital channels more quickly than other brands – and why not? The luxury auto story can be told elegantly online with rich media. As with TV, there’s an opportunity to roll HD video featuring beautiful images of the car in motion with atmospheric music, but rich media has the advantage of being interactive in addition to being very visual. Consumers can click to take a tour of the car, zoom in on specific features, even locate a vehicle in local inventory and make an appointment for a test drive at the dealership. Rich media was practically made for luxury automotive – and 95 percent of auto brands believe it can have the same impact as TV.
According to the research, auto makers currently allocate 40 percent of their budgets to digital. Surprisingly, luxury auto marketers lag behind the rest of the pack, investing only 28 percent of their budget. The luxury brands do plan to catch up in the new year, as 40 percent anticipate double-digit growth in digital. Moving their campaigns online would be prudent: It’s where their audiences are. 98 percent of affluent consumers spend time online – on average, more than 26 hours a week. Between desktop and mobile devices, affluent consumers can be reached online at work and at play, at any time of day or night. Automotive brands hoping to reach this audience should be there too.
Those who are shifting their budgets online are being progressive and moving quickly beyond the relative safety of old-school display. The number of auto brands leveraging digital video has nearly doubled since last year, increasing by a full 94 percent. In fact, moving forward, more than 60 percent of auto brands plan to shift a portion of their TV advertising budgets to online video. Social and mobile are also growing, with considerable increases over the past year, proving that automotive brands are ready to really interact with their audiences. Social and mobile have also gone very visual lately, led by Instagram, Pinterest and others, and these image-based services offer a lot of benefit for luxury auto dealers. Beautiful, shareable images are certainly a great way to market beautiful cars.
65 percent of agencies report that auto brands are expanding to digital channels more quickly than other brands, and that’s good news: Luxury auto makers in particular have a lot to gain in the shift to online media. As the web evolves and adapts to accommodate more brand advertisers, new ad formats and standards are emerging. There are more opportunities to share brand narratives in rich media, and in top tier publisher sites as they begin to offer premium inventory to accommodate the new ad formats. With an industry focus on measuring engagement, as well as on brand safety, the time is ideal for luxury auto marketers to dip their toes in.