The recent “recession” experience dramatically altered car-buying habits, as consumers are now averse to taking on long-term debt. This results in their cars being owned longer -- an average of eleven years -- making each new car purchase both a psychological and economic investment. With an economy still in flux (think sequester) and low consumer confidence, analysts don’t see a return to pre-recessionary sales levels until 2015.
To win buyers, automakers revamped car lines and increased television advertising spending to $6.6 billion in 2012, an 11% increase over 2011. This increase raised the number of annual national automotive television commercials to 700 thousand, or an incredible 80 spots for every hour of every day of the year.
Five standout strategies for auto marketers
The need to differentiate is paramount. While creative may be the driver, media is the engine through which your message is viewed. Here are five automotive media strategies to power up the hill and handle all the curves.
1. Target the right prospects
The Super Bowl, NFL Playoffs, Oscars and Grammys are the premium "tentpoles" for automotive advertisers generating high ratings for different prospect groups. As each of these programs is a one-day event, more continuous highly targeted support is required. Nielsen provides a tab of specific car prospect ratings, with high compositions for programs like "Extra," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "New Girl," and "Parks and Recreation."
2. Adjust your media both seasonally and daily
Avoid properties when they are less effective, and build in better-performing alternatives. Automotive sales are a year-round effort. Media consumption varies throughout the year and by day, requiring adjustments. It's difficult to find original-run programming in March, and it’s even more challenging during the summer, resulting in softer prime-time ratings. In addition, Friday -- the gateway to weekend automotive sales -- is one of the lowest-performing nights for the networks.
Marketers that strategically adjust their mix can achieve high-reaching, cost-effective efforts outside of prime time. It might surprise you that national syndication often has more of the top ten-rated programs on Friday, with as much reach as several networks combined.
3. Less is more for advertising recall
Running in shorter pods not only keeps competitors away, it can boost commercial recall by over 50%. An analysis of Kantar data indicates that about three-quarters of major automotive cable prime units ran in lower recalled pods with 7 or more commercials! Carefully monitor your advertising to ensure that your messages are capitalizing on shorter pods -- higher-recall venues.
4. Go live
Most new car prospects own DVRs, allowing them control over when and if they watch commercials. Among network prime viewers recording programming, half skipped the commercials during playback. A commercial viewed “live” offers immediacy of message and no electronic skipping of commercials. Seek out vehicles, like sports and national syndication, with a high concentration of live viewership.
5. Move the message into the program
One of the best ways to beat the DVR is to integrate your message within a program. Integrating vehicle into a network sitcom or drama requires a long lead time for script development and production schedules. Marketers needing faster turnaround have effectively partnered with talk and entertainment news programming that’s produced throughout the year, offering marketers on-air, digital video, and social media elements.
Buying a car will always be a major household decision. To reach prospects in today’s competitive auto environment, advertisers need to maximize every dollar spent. The vigilant will be rewarded! Think about shorter pods and better positioning, fine-tune your schedule, dominate the DVR, and move within the content.
Automotive marketers, start your engines!