It’s been a perennial challenge for auto dealers and manufacturers to find reliable ways to measure the effectiveness of their advertising spend.
Because cars are big-ticket, low-frequency purchases, how can auto dealers and manufacturers know for sure that their advertising campaigns resulted in more interested car buyers in their showrooms and, ultimately, more sales?
Now, thanks to new technical capabilities that leverage mobile data, out-of-home media (OOH), long a popular medium for automotive brands (think roadside billboards, bus shelters, and mass transit ads), can offer advertisers a highly visible and, for the first time, measurable medium that can drive auto sales.
Campaign measurement challenges
Until now, auto manufacturers had to rely on imperfect data workarounds to understand the outcome of their advertising campaigns. Traditional consumer packaged goods (CPG) methodologies using data such as store loyalty or credit card transactions can’t be used for expensive, low-frequency buys like a car.
And even standard brand metrics are unreliable. For example, although you can learn how many consumers like the new Chevrolet Malibu, that’s still a long way from a customer making a dealership visit or a purchase.
Actual sales data gleaned from registrations with state departments of motor vehicles (collated via companies like Polk) are more robust, but also come with challenges. Lengthy time frames (usually registrations within the last six months) make it difficult to isolate the impact of specific marketing tactics.
OOH has always been a highly desirable advertising medium for the automotive industry, and intuitively that has always made good sense. Billboards are highly visible, unskippable, and reach potential auto buyers at an optimal time—while they’re driving.
But it was always harder to prove the impact of out-of-home campaigns on auto buyers: Did the campaigns reach the right consumers, and what effect did they have on purchases?
Measurement by RADAR
In recent years, applications have been developed that can help advertisers more accurately plan and measure their OOH campaigns. This past spring, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas introduced RADAR, the industry’s first digital audience measurement solution for campaign planning and measurement.
RADAR uses mobile data to measure which audience groups—in this case, auto intenders—are exposed to OOH ads, and what actions they take afterward. This means marketers now have the ability to use the same kinds of sophisticated audience targeting and insights they already use in their digital campaigns, and can apply them to OOH advertising.
Additionally, auto manufacturers and dealers can use OOH and these data patterns to determine where best to target likely auto buyers as they move about during the day. Then, by using mobile data, they can measure actual visits to auto dealerships—a very strong signal of intent to buy. These same audience groups can then be retargeted with mobile ads for maximum reinforcement.
Auto industry case study
Clear Channel Outdoor Americas recently used its RADAR product for the first time with the automotive industry, working with several domestic auto dealers in six different designated market areas (DMAs) from a major U.S. auto brand, which sought to increase consumer visits to its dealerships.
Clear Channel devised a campaign using print and digital billboards that provided the equivalent of 1.7 billion impressions. The OOH campaign used RADAR mobile data to identify user groups exposed to the campaign, and measured two outcomes: dealership visit rate and brand attitudes (via a mobile phone survey).
The campaign results were impressive:
- Participating dealers saw a 15.4% lift in visits to dealerships among consumers exposed to the OOH campaign versus a control group in the same DMA, who were unexposed.
- During the six-month campaign, this equated to nearly 300,000 additional visits across the six DMAs.
- Exposed consumers were also surveyed after their visit to the dealership, and the brand survey results were equally impressive, including a +60% lift in consumers that searched online for more information, a +18% lift in the number of consumers talking to others about the brand, and a +58% lift in vehicles purchased and/or lease intent.
This major automotive brand campaign is an exciting step for auto advertisers and the ad industry alike, in part because the strong results seem to confirm the widespread belief that OOH and automotive are a powerful combination.
For the first time, auto dealers can understand exactly how effective an OOH campaign is in reaching a target audience of likely car buyers. For marketers and researchers, this one data point signals the beginning of an exciting era fueled by new technologies that harness the power of digital and mobile location-based data to create smarter and more effective campaigns that drive sales.
There is still much to learn about the interplay among other variables such as effective creative, location, and targeting of more specific consumer segments, such as soccer moms. But armed with the confidence that measureable OOH and the auto industry are powerful partners, these challenges are being solved in measurable and meaningful ways.
Andy Stevens is senior vice president of research and insights, and works closely with Clear Channel Outdoor Americas’ sales leadership and marketing to develop strategies to drive incremental growth by demonstrating ROI to clients and partners.
Latest posts by Andy Stevens
- How Out-of-Home Ad Measurement Benefits Dealers and OEMs - February 2, 2017