While the auto industry is consistently among the biggest advertisers in nearly every medium, it is also one of the most sophisticated, investing additional dollars alongside its ad spend to measure and optimize the impact of its advertising, and ensure it maximizes the impact and return on investment. This is particularly true in what is often said to be the "most measureable medium" - online. Yet in the past it has been a challenge for automakers and their dealer networks to know which of their creative units and which media are delivering results, as they lacked a relevant metric for what constituted results.
While advertisers have access to metrics such as click-through rates, they are irrelevant for brand advertising. What’s needed? In a nutshell, the same metrics most often used to evaluate the effectiveness of offline brand spending – classic purchase funnel metrics such as awareness, attitude, favorability, intent and preference. Fortunately, technology exists in the online medium that allows auto advertisers to measure and optimize these key Brand Lift metrics in real-time. Advertisers can now not only leverage relevant metrics, but also take advantage of the real-time nature of the medium. Why does real-time matter? Without it, advertisers don't have the ability to make course corrections in-market or pre-campaign and millions of brand dollars could be wasted if advertisers have to wait weeks or months to determine if their advertising accomplished its objective.
In recent weeks the Mazda 3 Series, Ford Explorer, Mercedes Benz and Subaru have all used an "intelligent" survey-based methodology for measuring both audience characteristics and consumer sentiment because it is the most effective way to capture accurate and actionable audience characteristics and consumer sentiment in real-time.
Here is some of what they learned:
As with any brand advertising campaign, measure and optimize against relevant Brand Lift metrics. For automotive campaigns, these often focus on attitudes / attributes, given the long-term nature of the engagement with the consumer. Click-through rates are irrelevant.
Informative and/or educational creative can be very effective on this front. In one particular campaign, creative highlighting futuristic capabilities led to the Brand Lift against the desired objective, with 41% of consumers exposed to the creative agreeing that the brand was innovative and technologically advanced.
Effective targeting is key to the success of automotive campaigns, as is measuring Brand Lift against each targeting segment in real-time, in order to make the necessary adjustments to optimize Brand Lift. In another particular campaign, impressions were shifted to the best performing targeting segments to drive the desired result.
Higher frequencies of exposure are often needed to shape consumer attitudes about a particular brand, but this is not always the case. In another campaign, a single exposure drove the greatest Brand Lift. All of the OEMs can leverage real-time data on the impact of frequency to determine the optimal exposure level for any given campaign.
In one specific case study, an OEM launched a general branding campaign and wanted to measure consumer opinion about favorable attributes about their brand so we helped them measure how much consumers agreed that the auto manufacturer embodied key brand qualities, such as innovation and performance. By getting consumer brand attitudes in real-time, the OEM optimized to the highest brand lift in consumer opinion. The result?
The OEM saw a 40.9% lift in people who agreed that the brand was innovative and technologically advanced amongst people who saw the campaign and they found that highest lift was generated after just one exposure, indicating that the campaign was highly effective.
Consumers may only buy a handful of cars in a lifetime, and for many, it will be one of the largest purchases they ever make. Advertising is a critical component of ensuring that when these few-and-far-between decisions are made, the OEM’s are able to capitalize on them. And for that to happen, the advertising needs to be working. Invest a few additional dollars to make sure it is.