Dealership Media Strategy Is Key

Years ago, automakers mulled ways of getting dealer Web sites (not to mention stores) aligned to the national brand and wired into the purchase funnel. ADP unit Cobalt Automotive and Dealer.com are two companies that have found a livelihood doing the digital heavy lifting for dealers. The latter -- a Burlington, Vt.-based B-to-B -- does CRM, media buying (it has its own real-time bidding operation), digital advertising and inventory management online.

Marketing Daily talks to Dave Winslow, Dealer.com's chief digital space strategist, about the media landscape for dealers, and its opportunities and challenges.

Q:  What does real-time, automatic media-buying capability mean for dealers?

A:  It enables us to advertise for thousands of dealers at scale. Now that Google, Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft have programmatic ad networks, we can purchase media at scale in an automated fashion.  The real targeting comes in when we can put the bid out on a major ad network, picking the one that's best based on different criteria and running the right ad on the right network at the right time. If I go to The Wall Street Journal and I'm reading an article and see an ad for, say, toothpaste, I only pay attention if it's "natural." So the targeting has allowed us to serve relevant messages.

Q:  What's the premium media channel for dealers?

A:  We do a lot of work with Jumpstart Media, which has a portfolio of [auto vertical] publishers they represent, and it's a premium buy, since we are reaching people who are in market to buy a car. If we get someone on Car and Driver, NADA Guides or J.D. Power, they have a much higher propensity to go through to the purchase process. It's more expensive overall but the targeting is much better. Dealers are comfortable with that too, because they tend to have these magazines in their dealerships anyway. It's something they understand; it's endemic. It's where people are really shopping for cars.

Q:  Where does native advertising/social fit for dealers?

A:  We started with Facebook from an experiential standpoint. What dealers are having trouble with is quantifying what the ROI is, though. With search and display they work very synergistically, but when we get into native on Facebook or Yelp we are telling dealers that "this is where people are" and where your brand dollars are going to start to go. But they are used to traditional metrics, so it's educating them on what the native advertising success points are. We work closely with Facebook to try to quantify that for dealers, but it's a much different experience for a dealer to see their ad on Facebook versus waking up in the morning and and seeing their ad on the local news show.

Q:  What's the role of social media at the dealership level?

A:  Dealers want to push their offers. What we explain is that social media is not really the media choice for offers; you don't want to be disruptive, it's people's personal space. When I go to USA Today and a banner ad shows up it's expected. When I go to Facebook and see an offer for 1.99% financing it's a disruption. 

Q:  What can they do on social media that isn't disruptive, but helps them sell cars?

A:  Dealers are very good at community brand building. They are core to many communities they are in. They are very supportive in outreach, and can bring events at dealerships to help do things like fundraise. That's the place for social media. We think it's what people share, and that's crucial for social media success. They may not share a good offer on a car. They will share something that's more community and emotionally based.

Q:  What are the opportunities for location-based activity?

A:  Three years ago when I joined I was pushing Foursquare as one of the best opportunities for dealerships. I was presenting it to dealers as a means of developing relationships with other businesses in their area. Imagine if someone checked in at a steakhouse down the street from your dealership. An offer pops up: come test drive an Audi A4 and and we will give you a coupon for 50% off your next steak dinner. The ability to do synergistic targeting on FourSquare is great. I'm a great believer in geo fencing and location-specific advertising. Most dealers typically have an area of responsibility where they can market. It's a challenge and an opportunity.

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1 comment about "Dealership Media Strategy Is Key ".
  1. Linden Skeens from Thumbvista , November 18, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.
    Location based advertising can be an extremely effective way to engage customers! What a great strategy in partnering with other local businesses to give deals. We would be glad to speak to anyone with interest in learning more about geofencing for mobile marketing for customers who are near your location or a competitors.