Even the most well-polished crystal ball can be murky sometimes. But, as you prepare for uncertain times in 2020, what if you could tap into a brain trust of the most experienced auto-dealership marketers in the industry? That's precisely what Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, did when it formed its 11-member Automotive Advisory Council.
The council consists of pioneers who built the first digital ad platforms for major OEMs, marketing analytics specialists from large dealership groups, and savvy advertising executives. They shared their expertise with MediaVillage, so the rest of us can better grasp how the changing digital landscape will impact dealerships in the coming new decade.
"The folks on the council really understand how things work deep inside the dealership. And they know how to manage the analytics and optimize against them," said Todd Hauser, vice president of automotive strategy at Effectv. "We put together the right mix of people from media and marketing, all heavily focused on automotive across all tiers."
Hauser, who also sits on the council, served as our dealership-marketing whisperer for the council's 2020 guidance. He was joined by Joe Alesi, executive creative director at Mnemonic, Effectv's in-house creative agency.
"Day in and day out, the council provides insights from a seller standpoint," Alesi said. "That helps us craft our positioning and identify every promising segment."
So, put your crystal ball aside. Here's advice from Effectv's brain trust for growing your auto business in 2020.
1. Ratings are out. Impressions are in.
Astute dealership marketers are tossing out 20-year-old cost-efficiency models. In that outdated approach, advertisers would direct ad dollars to, say, 7:00 p.m. primetime buyers and avoid mid-afternoon dayparts. Why? Because that's what their gut told them to do. And their company's bean counters would insist on marketing spend based on the lowest costs-points in the Nielsen books.
But in 2020, the industry's steady shift to a data-centric approach will go into overdrive. The game-changer is data from set-top boxes and other analytics tools. "We're seeing true viewership data that can be modeled to find in-market shoppers wherever they are consuming media," Hauser said.
Council members pointed out that effective marketing in 2020 will continue to move from a costs-points methodology to an audience paradigm. More and more, contracts are getting built on finding the right audience, not necessarily finding the person watching a program who's cheapest to reach. "No matter what an in-market shopper is watching or when they're watching, we want to serve an ad that has the greatest likelihood to succeed," Hauser explained.
2. Strategic alliances between dealerships and vendors flourish with insights from data.
In 2020, smart dealerships will invest in understanding the full spectrum of digital offerings. The expertise starts under a dealership's roof, but that should be augmented by vendors such as Effectv, which, through a consultative approach, can help differentiate between shiny objects and strategic assets.
"It's so last year to have a business-development manager focusing on databases and scheduling service calls," Hauser said. "In 2020, you need somebody to manage website activity, dig deep with Google Analytics, and work with vendors that embrace the dealership's goals, consulting on how media products can achieve those goals."
The nature of those vendor relationships will only get more complex. In the past, you could depend on a simple agency buy of television, radio, and newspapers. "Now, there are so many different options, in addition to third-party endemics [such as] Autotrader and Kelly Blue Book," Hauser explains.
The digital marketing specialist at the dealership makes business-winning, or losing, decisions based on insights from data. So, there has to be the deepest level of understanding about the data assets that sources such as set-top boxes from Comcast's 17 million households can provide.
By working hand-in-hand, the dealership and the vendor can get the right answers to two key questions: What are the metrics saying you need to do? What can you change to drive better outcomes?
3. Creative will laser-focus on a brand's unique promise.
With a few taps and swipes on an iPhone, auto shoppers in 2020 can compare prices and inventory offered at multiple dealerships. Even if the data identifies the media-consuming patterns of a brand's target customers, it's still necessary to motivate them to come to your door — and not to the dealership down the road.
The Effectv Automotive Advisory Council emphasizes that creative messages can't only be about having the largest inventory or using tired slogans about "joining the family." Dealerships have to articulate what makes them different. "Developing the clearest and most compelling brand promise, whether it's one price or one-hour transactions, is critical in 2020," said Hauser.
To help auto advertisers hone their message, Effectv has a major resource in Mnemonic, its in-house agency. As Mnemonic develops campaigns, it can analyze viewership data from those Comcast households. That intel becomes integral to the creative process. "We're producing creative grounded in the metrics to create custom campaigns delivered to the audience they're intended for," Alesi said.
So, ditch a one-size-fits-all approach in 2020. The spots get shot not only for the all-powerful 30-second ad, but also for 15-second videos for Twitter, and five-second pieces for Facebook. "We're a multi-platform, multi-channel agency," said Alesi. "That's what makes our stuff so sticky."
Each part of a campaign should ladder back to the core brand promise, members of the Effectv Automotive Advisory Council advised. With each exposure and across multiple platforms, a prospect hears about the unique dealership experience that only you can offer. Then, it's up to you to deliver on that promise from the time the customer walks through the door.
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