Automakers are always among the top advertisers on network TV and usually the very top dog at local stations. If there’s a business that believe in the visual image, it’s got to be them. The industries are intertwined. There only became a TV “season” in September because that’s when automakers used to unveil all of their new year models.
Detroit (and Japan,Germany and Korea) have been big believers in online video advertising too. As Automotive News notes, “The auto industry is second only to video game makers in embracing the medium for its video advertising” according to a recent study by Kantar Media.
But despite the money and the big successful ad campaigns you know of (VW’s “The Force,” for obvious example, and the Chrysler ad that not only helped the carmaker but was a good advertisement for burned-out Detroit), automakers don’t get a lot miles per gallon out of many of its online efforts.
Automotive News says, “Automakers have run about 1,100 online video campaigns since 2009, garnering about 1.23 million views each on average, roughly 225,000 fewer views than the overall average among advertisers, according to Visible Measures. During that span, automotive online campaigns accounted for about 11 percent of the more than 10,000 branded online video campaigns yet attracted only 9 percent of all page views.”
That might be because even an entertaining commercial carries the risk of somehow leading to the cookies patrol barraging your browser with car ads. Shopping online for a car may be easier, but it comes with its own annoying cost.
One thing that distinguishes car makers from many advertisers is that they seem to have an institutional hard shell about the vagaries of the consuming public, good and bad. Carmakers can be famously blind; that’s how Japan ate Detroit’s lunch bucket. But they can also be caught flat-footed by car models and brands that do far better than they expected.
So while they may expect ads to go viral, they probably know better than many that life often gives them lemons. (Maybe it’s a cosmic pay back.)
One new commercial that might have that viral thing going for it is “Sexy People (The Fiat Song)” that has sexy women and bare-chested men and a thumping beat featuring vocals from Italian pop star Arianna and rapper Pitbull, and lots of Fiat 500s, and for some reason Charlie Sheen. The song and some of the footage was used as the theme for another Fiat campaign last summer. Sony Music thought it might be a summer hit this summer so it acquired the rights (in return, it added “The Fiat Song” to the title.)
It’s totally mindless, but it’s got one credential many totally mindless videos get: 6 million views on YouTube since the end of April--and Sony doesn’t officially release the song until next month.
The car maker’s marketing chief Olivier Francois, believes “Viral is always experimental. Viral is unpredictable,” he told Automotive News. "Therefore -- and that's my religion -- viral can't cost. I invest time, creativity, energy, networking. ... I don't invest money."
That’s the spirit.