A Million Dollars for an Ad Campaign—How Would I Spend It?


hand holding money

In the advertising world, we often say: “If I had the budget, I would do this or that.” Have you ever made that statement? No matter how much we spend to promote our dealership, we always wish we had more bucks to do those extra things to sell more cars. Because one thing we know for sure is that advertising budgets correlate directly with car sales.

Let’s enter that perfect world for a moment and say we have a million dollars to create that perfect ad campaign. What would we do? First, I would check inventory and sales staff. Am I equipped to sell 2,000 cars? Obviously, if you are not prepared to sell a corresponding number of cars, then you would not spend the money, but let’s assume in this perfect world, we have the inventory and a dream team sales staff.

Being a TV guy, I would buy all the spots I could get to achieve a “total state of awareness.” What is “total state of awareness?” In cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, a million dollars will not go as far as it would in Dubuque, Iowa. So for practical purposes, let’s take a market that has an area of dominant influence (ADI) of roughly two million people. The ADI reflects the audience in the market area who will see a commercial. There may be additional population clusters. For this sample market, however, we would take major areas served by local TV stations within 100 miles and not served by any other TV media. When you drill down, you are really only looking for people, 18 plus, who are capable of buying automobiles.



In this perfect world, I want to reach every targeted buyer in my market every time they turn on the TV. That means all morning news shows, evening, late night, daytime even primetime. Again, my goal is total awareness. In our sample market, that would take about $150,000 per week or $600,000 of my dream budget. Every other car dealer would be wiped off the face of the earth. The only message one would remember would be my million dollar dealer. We would blanket each radio station, with at least 10 spots per day for $100,000, another $120,000 for newspaper—full page color ads every day. A mailer each week $100,000, then production, in-store signage, mobile billboards driving around our competitors for another $80,000, and there we are at $1,000,000.

What would that do for sales? You would sell 2,000 cars that month with a $500 per car budget. Sound unrealistic? It’s not. These kinds of equations happen proportionately every day. Use these same principles, as I have used it, for your next campaign. Own one medium—in this case it was television, but decide what is right for your market—and then use your supporting media to compliment your primary media, and plug in a number for how much you wish to spend to sell each car. If you are in this game to win, this is the approach you need to take to dominate and gain market share. Advertising works; you just need to know how to make it work for you.

Tom Letizia is the president of Letizia Mass Media, a full-service advertising agency specializing in automotive. He can be reached at 702-777-2121 or email tletizia@dealermark.com.

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