The earliest known example of a car ad was in 1898 when The Winton Motor Carriage Company urged consumers to ‘dispense with a horse’ via a simple print ad in Scientific American. Oh, how times have changed. Fast forward to more than a century later and automotive ads have pervaded every media channel imaginable – from TV to radio, digital, mobile and beyond…
Stunning locations, alloys gliding along winding roads, bodywork gleaming in the sunlight and even the occasional celebrity driver appearing behind the wheel, automotive TV ads can arouse an aura of ultimate luxury. But while that traditional approach still has a role to play, in today’s digital age, where the purchase journey begins online for 88% of car buyers, smarter use of data and insight is changing the gear stick for auto brands.
Despite automotive brands representing only 5% of the 243 campaigns that made it onto the Festival of Media Global Awards 2018 shortlist, their performance was impressive, as half of those (50%) went on to win Gold, Silver or Bronze accolades in their respective categories.
With entries from Audi, BMW, Dodge, Kia, Land Rover, Seat, Skoda, Toyota and Volkswagen across Europe (seven), North America (four) and APAC (one), two thirds (67%) of all the entries from the automotive sector were in the ‘Insight & Technology’ section.
Given that the automotive industry standard has traditionally been set around online leads, the fact that consumer behaviour has changed and fewer people are willing to divulge info and opt in to be contacted by a dealer means that the role of programmatic and data has evolved immensely.
“Data enables us to tighten the process, so the use of data is actually helping all of us (brands, agencies and publishers) to control the process, to understand consumers, their behaviours and develop personal experiences,” said Stephane Rydlewski, Sports Marketing Platforms Lead at Toyota Europe, speaking on stage at the Festival of Media Global 2018 in Rome. “You still need the skills, the mindset and the tools to convert this data into creative ideas, content and media. The creative will still do the magic but I think the whole challenge is that men and machine/creativity and data work together and the future will be to ensure this perfect balance between those two dimensions.”
From a creative perspective, as cars become more intelligent, autonomous and connected, auto brands are turning to interactive experiences to highlight their unique car features using new technologies like AR, 360-degree video and digital billboards.
And behind the scenes it’s clear that brands are also taking those same innovative and custom approaches to the cross-channel attribution and optimisation challenge by having a much smarter view and management of their data and continuously learning, analysing and optimising in order to personalise the creative. Furthermore, technology is working even harder to analyse audience signals and behaviour in real-time to create a unified view of audiences to target and retarget more efficiently across multiple media channels.
“With data and content, they’re not separable. You have to start with good data and talk about how you can get the best insight from that and then the content will highlight what you need to do in order to create a human connection to draw authenticity and trust for the brand,” said Coco Masters, Chief Producer & Global Content Manager at Nissan. “You need to have authenticity, you can’t just create something because it makes people smile. It could be extremely creative as a standalone but if it doesn’t bring someone back to the brand then you are losing that human connection, which you need – which is why you work with the insight to begin with.”
It was an automotive brand, in fact, that took the Gold for the Special Award – Best Adtech / Martech Platform. The ‘Kia Lead Generation’ system was designed in Spain by Havas Media to record a complete data footprint, from ad impact to the call centre and finally the Kia car dealership. The system could offer those searching online, content based on their interests and profiles, allowing Kia to monitor and optimise the customer journey process through the whole sales funnel and give a deeper vision of each lead to make better investment decisions in real time.
The future for automotive will be audience-led, digital first and campaign driven. As the media landscape becomes more fractured, a deeper understanding of the online and offline path to conversion, continuous measurement and optimisation, along with precise targeting techniques, will be what drives consumers from digital to the dealership.
We put the spotlight on two FOMG Awards 2018 shortlisted entries, which highlight this trend:
The VW In-Market Project | VW | OMD | Denmark
Shortlisted for: Best Use of Programmatic (GOLD WINNER)
Digital campaigns in the automotive sector are often measured against their ability to create the highest CTR and the lowest CPA (Conversion, Download brochure etc.). This especially holds true for Programmatic where optimisation means relying on retargeting, using inferred non-competitive expensive 3rd party data sets and some contextual prospecting on ad cluttered automotive websites. From a reach perspective this is not working well as there is a limited supply, and many users are not really in the market for a car, they are often interested in cars.
VW wanted to go in-between and find the users who were planning to buy but did not yet behave like they were. Using a survey tool, the agency was able to extract data from a variety of sources to enable a very precise twinning construction going beyond observed online behaviour, that could be pushed to buying platforms. This process was replicated for media buying in Facebook.
It launched the setup in June 2017 and set out to first measure, then optimise, twin the audience and export the twinned in-market audience to the buying platforms. The merging of the audience data, viewability data and the ad-serving logs allowed OMD to create a new currency to evaluate its buying on which was CPM-ii, cost per thousand users in-Market, in-view.
A Sedan Re-Imagined | Audi | PHD agency Touché! | Canada
Shortlisted for: Best Use of AR / VR Technology (SILVER WINNER)
The luxury sedan market had declined by -13% since 2013, with the category losing its appeal and suffering somewhat of an image problem, often being perceived as old fashioned. With the Audi A5’s family of luxury sedans to promote, the challenge was to differentiate the new models as a different kind of sedan. Audi needed to circumnavigate consumers preconceived ideas of a sedan and take a completely different approach to automotive advertising, which puts the product and features at the centre.
Imagination and Sensation have been proven to increase brand consideration by 47% and this became the guiding light for the overall launch strategy. It also had a nice synergy with the creative campaign which features the song “Pure Imagination” from the “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” soundtrack. The approach would sit at the intersection of advertising and experience, to extend and enhance the capabilities of the advertising…
PHD agency Touché! designed a multi-phased media plan with Augmented Reality at the centre of it all. In a world where automotive ads put the car at the forefront, this strategy aimed to do the exact opposite. Playing to the cliché of showcasing the latest model of car in high-end malls, it instead built an empty display where consumers were invited to use their imagination and unlock the suite of Audi A5 cars. Using best in class AR technology it could ensure as much precision as in reality.