How automotive marketers approach online marketing is vastly different depending on the season and where customers reside.
The “Eye on Auto” report from global data company Eyeota offers insight into these unique twists. The report focuses on 2018 data across all global regions, aggregating Eyeota's proprietary audience data expenditure and volume information from 1,500+ advertisers, running $20,000-plus large-scale ad campaigns and using audience segment data from 30,000-plus data suppliers.
Auto continues to represent one of the largest contributors to global digital advertising spend. In just the United States, United Kingdom and Germany alone, auto advertisers are expected to spend nearly $20 billion on digital ads in 2019 (up 15% year-over-year), representing a 12.6% share of total digital ad spend in those countries.
Globally, automotive advertisers in 2018 spent 53% of their data budgets on demographic segments (up from 40% in 2017), indicating that auto brands are increasingly focused on broad audience attributes such as household income, age and gender.
Nearly all global auto-focused audience data spend comes from non-luxury automotive advertisers (65%) and luxury vehicle advertisers (30%), the majority of which comes from automakers.
“We are seeing auto brands employ a mix of demographic-focused and intent-based audience strategies, depending on their broader marketing goals,” Elissa Reiling, vice president of marketing at Eyeota, tells Drive Time. “Luxury vehicle brands are more dependent on demographic targeting, especially related to financial status and household income.”
Auto advertisers typically have a strong first-party data that supports their marketing efforts, so they mostly turn to third-party data to enrich their data with demographic information, interests and other intent signals.
In the U.S., auto advertisers have a very clear demographic profile of a target car buyer. They focus on demographics because auto advertisers in the U.S. especially have robust first-party data sets around ownership, registrations and financing. Their focus on demographic over intent audiences is a signal to this rather than a dated way of thinking.
In Europe, compact cars are more popular and all types of consumers drive those models. European marketers focus on reaching on brand loyalists. In some APAC countries, cars are more expensive because of import taxes, which means there is a rigid wealth threshold to acquire a car (beyond simply lifestyle choices that are more common in the U.S.). Asians marketers combine demographics with intent.
The way marketers target consumers throughout the year is different from what one would assume. While TV commercials for a “December to Remember” and Santa in his red Mercedes-Benz imply that these extravagant holiday presents are impulse buys, November has a massive drop in auto marketing audience data spending globally.
Luxury auto advertisers employ long-term branding to high-income households three to six months before these sales events, so they are spending to reach the right consumers for these pushes in the summer.
However, if you are gifted a car, it is more likely to be a luxury than a non-luxury vehicle. The share of data spend by luxury auto advertisers increased in fourth quarter 2018, likely because households with strong financial liquidity are able to take on the risk of a big purchase like a vehicle only a couple weeks before or on a major holiday.
Finally, marketers had varying reactions to the rise and fall of auto sales in 2018. March tends to see a growth in auto sales since January and February are historically slow months for car sales. In 2017 and 2018, auto advertisers increased spending on audience data to capture that growing demand.
However, according to the NASDAQ Global Auto Index, auto sales dipped in the latter half of 2018, but spend on audience data also dipped, rather than trying to drive sales back up.