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Ask Patty Featured in Chrome Systems Article in iMedia Connection

Published Apr 3rd 2007, 12:44am by Patty Streeter in Pressroom Articles
Benefit from Ad Spend Shifts

Chrome Systems' GM outlines how marketers can make smart choices when creating and placing campaigns in the new media marketplace.

On January 22 of this year, Advertising Age ran an article confirming what most of us in the automotive industry have seen coming. The article stated that in 2006, Detroit automakers slashed a total of more than $100 million in print advertising with Time, Inc. General Motors, formerly Time, Inc.'s biggest advertiser, cut its spending by 29 percent or $47.8 million, while DaimlerChrysler scaled down its spending from $93.5 million in 2005 to $39.7 million in 2006.

One key line in the article makes this development especially pertinent to you: "Detroit's carmakers are cutting advertising costs, and when they are spending, they often seek more direct and interactive connections with customers." Translation: They're going online with their advertising dollars. Automotive advertisers and marketers that are looking for key website inventory should be sure to look for the following essentials that are attracting consumers' attention.

Robust VIN and vehicle description capabilities
Just as automakers are turning away from print advertising, consumers are turning away from traditional newspaper classified ads to sell and buy used vehicles. When deciding where to place your client's advertising, consider sites that have an easy-to-use Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) decoder or a robust vehicle selector. Because the best of these technologies allow sellers to craft a complete, detailed vehicle description without having to check the box on 20 items of generic equipment, websites with these tools attract more consumers. In addition, the genius of some of the decoders is that they can make a used car sound as good as new, with the ability to drill-down to in-depth vehicle information, like factory color names or detailed standard equipment, giving consumers and dealers the most accurate information to market or value vehicles for the best sales decisions. When a site delivers tools that help sell vehicles, they get more traffic. When you place advertising on these sites you bring attention to your clients.

Eye-catching interactive elements
When deciding where to place your client's advertising, look for a site with eye-grabbing interactive elements. Interior and exterior 360-degree vehicle spins and detailed static photos grab the attention of website visitors and keep them there with a broad base of content. A seller will look for these elements when choosing where to list its autos, and a buyer will look for clear, comprehensive images and the 'hands-on' appeal of movies when vehicle shopping. Just check out the Vehix.com site for a great example of interactive elements and a company that consistently registers high internet traffic, equaling greater exposure for those who advertise with it.

Appeal to your target audience
This may seem obvious, but only recently have we seen a movement in the automotive industry towards specifically appealing to different buyer groups, including women buyers, younger buyers and specific ethnic groups. All people do not make purchases in the same ways, so seek out sites that directly appeal to your client's target audience. One great example of a vehicle website doing this is AskPatty.com. While the site is open to all, it focuses on being an automotive resource for women, offering advice on car purchases, maintenance and a list of Ask Patty certified dealers who are trained to attract, sell and retain loyal women consumers. If your client wants to increase its percentage of women buyers, you may want to check-out this site. My next suggestion follows this same line of thought:

Implement consumer-friendly search capabilities
We're in the automotive business, so we think searching online for a vehicle is easy. We know the difference between models, what trim designations mean (DX, LX, EX) and how to decipher convoluted industry acronyms (FWD, PDL, EXT). This is not necessarily the case for consumers. Don't assume customers will know what AWD means; when considering where to advertise, search out websites that limit automotive jargon and are more consumer-friendly. Most likely a customer will come in shopping for a small SUV, rather than have the exact make and model in mind, so look for sites that group similar vehicles in logical ways. Test out the search capabilities of different sites and put your client's money towards those with consumer-friendly searches to appeal to a broader audience.

Before jumping for joy about the demise of big auto manufacturer advertising dollars funneling straight to print media, consider this: Print may be declining, but that doesn't mean manufacturers should be anxious to immediately throw money at just any online advertising. They need to advertise on sites that draw buyers, sellers and 'window shoppers' alike. The above is a brief-overview of how to decide which sites will earn your client's advertising dollars. Stay tuned for my next article where I will go more in-depth about consumer-friendly searches, what they are and how to recognize them.

Peter Batten is the general manager of Chrome Systems, a data services company that provides vehicle content, software, technology and services to deliver complete enterprise solutions to all segments of the retail automotive industry. Read full bio.

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