Research & Analysis

Exploring Influential and Impactful Automotive Advertising Campaigns (Part Two)

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Disruption for the Modern Age in Automotive Advertising Campaigns From 2001 on, the auto industry took a new approach for disruptive marketing that aligned with a world that was rapidly changing and evolving. Disruptive marketing is all about standing out from the crowd. In today’s loud, digital, tech-savvy world, businesses are desperately trying to sell you something from every angle, in every space, and on every platform, making it hard to connect with an audience that is already overwhelmed and oversaturated with content and advertising.  Since the technology boom in the 2000s, disruptive marketers are the ones who have been able to cut through the noise and find success – more so than any other time in history, particularly in the auto industry, where competition is fierce, and customers are bombarded with advertising on a daily basis.  Today, disruptive marketing practices are more important than ever. From turning conventional showrooms upside down to selling cars online, disruptive marketers have been shaking up the status quo and driving sales by appealing to customers' sense of adventure and modern technology.  Automotive Marketing in a Post 9/11 World The automotive industry was one of the first to be impacted by the events of September 11th. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, GM launched the 'Keep America Rolling' campaign. The objective was to encourage people to buy GM cars to help support the economy. The campaign was highly successful and is credited with helping GM weather the economic downturn. Keep America Rolling was a massive success, with GM sales increasing by 20% in the months following the campaign's launch. It was a perfect example of how a well-executed, disruptive marketing campaign can help a company weather an economic crisis. Cashing In on Clunkers Disruptive marketing is all about making a splash and getting people to take notice. It's about thinking outside the box and coming up with creative ways to get people's attention, and with a looming car shortage in the 2000s inspired one of the most memorable campaigns in auto industry history. Launched in 2009, the program offered consumers a cash rebate for trading in their old cars for new, more fuel-efficient models. The results were dramatic. In just six weeks, the program boosted auto sales by nearly 30%. More importantly, it changed the way people thought about car buying. Suddenly, fuel economy was a top priority for consumers, and automakers were scrambling to keep up. The Cash for Clunkers campaign was a true game-changer for the auto industry, and it's a perfect example of the power of disruptive marketing. Automotive Advertising that Electrified the Industry The Model S was a breakthrough vehicle for Tesla. It was the first all-electric car that had a range of over 200 miles. This made it a viable option for long-distance travel and helped to change people's perceptions of electric vehicles. Tesla's marketing campaigns have been highly influential in driving sales and generating buzz for the company. The beauty of this is that the campaigns were not made by Tesla itself, but rather by someone in the audience. Someone who believes wholeheartedly in the brand, so much so that they felt compelled to create their own version of an advertisement; a creation which has had over 375k views, completely unsolicited by the brand itself: Gallons of Light. Capturing the Power of Black Friday  Taking a cue from major retailers throughout the United States, car dealerships began embracing the “retail frenzy” model known as Black Friday.  Black Friday has been widely embraced as one of the most effective pieces of disruptive marketing in history.  Held on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Black Friday campaign is widely marked as the official start of the holiday shopping season.  While Black Friday has traditionally been a retail event for big box stores or smaller shopping experiences, the automotive industry began pivoting their marketing dollars in recent years to entice consumers to purchase a car. “Marketing convinced public that that “Black Friday” is a great shopping day to get a jump on the holiday shopping season. This provided a very effective “disruption” of the norm – staying home and watching football with the family,” said Kirk Oleson, President of Graham Oleson .  Marketing While the World Stood Still The unprecedented circumstances of 2020 forever changed the face of industry, commerce, and advertising. Positioned against the backdrop of a catastrophic global pandemic, automotive marketing teams scurried to find a new, impactful advertising approach when most were sheltered in place. As car dealerships remained empty due to social distancing and health concerns, television ads began shifting their tone and approach to connect with car buyers. "While this TV ad campaign wasn't the first to promote buying a car from home, it was launched at the very beginning of COVID and was very successful," said Tony Roland, Automotive Account Executive at Spectrum Reach . "Car buyers weren't going to dealerships at the time. Many people aren't comfortable making such a big purchase without seeing it, touching it, and talking directly to a person." As demonstrated in a commercial that showcased a local car dealer, Joe Maus CDJR, this approach assured the consumer that the process could be both simple and non-threatening. "At a time when many other local dealers were talking about the measures they were taking in their stores to make them clean and safe, this alternative resonated with TV viewers throughout the market," said Roland. Modern Challenges for a New Era in Car Shopping The way consumers behave has changed dramatically in recent years, and businesses have had to adapt their strategies accordingly. One of the most significant changes has been the shift away from weekend shopping. In the past, businesses focused their marketing efforts on getting potential customers to add their products to their shopping list by Friday. In the auto industry, weekends were traditionally when dealerships offered their best deals. However, with more and more people shopping during the week, dealerships have had to adjust their strategies. As a result, the way businesses operate has changed dramatically in recent years, and companies must continue to adapt their strategies to keep up with the changing consumer landscape. Beyond the new challenges of modern shopping patterns, the media landscape has more fragmented than ever before, creating a more saturated environment to connect with audiences. With the rise of digital media, there are more ways for consumers to get their information. This has led to a disruptive marketing environment, where companies must fight for attention. One way that car companies are achieving this is by using cross demographic targeting, allowing advertisers to reach a wider audience with their message. In the auto industry, for example, companies are targeting young adults with social media campaigns. This is because they know that this demographic is more likely to be interested in new car models. By using cross demographic targeting, companies can reach a larger audience and increase their sales, such as the 2022 Acura “Your Turn” campaign with Vince Staples during the NBA Finals.  According to Torrance Hampton, Creative Director and Executive Producer for GFACTOR FILMS , “The disruptive nature of the campaign originates with Vince himself, and you can see his direct influence over the campaign visuals: the artistic 360 freeze frames, jump-cut car performance shots and kinetic camera movements all while showcasing multicultural millennials experiencing the new Acura Integra. It's not about the car, it's about the lifestyle.” Reimagining Disruptive Automotive Marketing in the 21st Century There have been many other disruptive automotive marketing campaigns in the past century. The automotive industry is constantly changing, and so is the marketing landscape. What worked in the past may not be effective today, and what's popular now may be out of style in a few months. To stay ahead of the curve, automotive marketing teams will need to continuously find new, innovative, and disruptive ways to capture the consumer's heart, imagination, and loyalty. If you missed Part One of this series, click here . 
Exploring Influential and Impactful Automotive Advertising Campaigns

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A look at the past, present and future of disruptive marketing in the auto industry Advertising has come a long way since its humble beginnings. There's no doubt about it – marketing remains an ever-changing landscape: What worked a few years ago may not be effective today, and what's popular now may be out of style in a few months. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the automotive industry, where new campaigns hold the potential to make or break a company. This article will explore some disruptive and impactful automotive marketing campaigns throughout the past century. We'll explore what made them successful and see how they changed the marketing landscape forever. Early Automotive Marketing that Set the Stage One of the earliest and most well-known automotive advertising campaigns was Ford's "Model T" campaign, successfully running from 1908 to 1927. The ads featured simple text and images that showed off the car's features and proved highly effective in launching the modern American motoring age. The Model T was a revolutionary car that changed the way people thought about transportation. Ford ran a full-page advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post in October 1908. The ad appealed to middle-income families with a bold headline, "Four-Cylinder, Twenty Horse Power, Five Passenger Touring Car" at just $850.00. The campaign was so successful that it helped make Ford one of the world's biggest and most successful automakers. Innovation and Imagination Throughout the Decades As time passed, new approaches to memorable and impactful marketing took shape, from General Motors' "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" campaign to Volkswagen's iconic "Think Small" approach. As the years continued, other approaches to disruptive automotive advertising blossomed. In the 1980s, we saw the first truly disruptive automotive marketing campaigns start to take shape. Automotive marketing teams needed to find new, innovative, and disruptive ways to capture the consumer's heart, imagination, and loyalty. Saab ran an ad that featured a Saab car driving behind a jet with powerful slow-motion visuals and portrayed a lifestyle admirable to many. The tagline for the campaign was "Nothing on Earth comes close." Focused on the luxury and speed of the vehicle, the ad connected with an audience eager to experience a lifestyle they aspired to. This groundbreaking ad found tremendous success and launched the career of its director, who went on to direct the highly successful movie  TOP GUN . These early automotive campaigns were disruptive because they could reach a broad audience and promote their products in a very different way from what had been done before. They set the stage for automotive marketing campaigns that would come later and continue to be disruptive. Toyota Breaks into the US Market In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Toyota was relatively unknown in the United States. They had a small market share and were not considered a significant player in the automotive industry. However, that all began to change in the 1980s. "In 1989, Toyota broke into the US market with the Lexus LS 400, a design icon at the time, and shook up the automotive industry with the vehicle and this commercial. The ad was so innovative, Nissan and Dodge copied it. In this commercial from 1989, The LS 400 is featured here at an equivalent of 145 miles per hour with 100 glasses of champagne featured on top without shattering. Toyota/Lexus was and still is a disruptor with every model they create," said Melanie Borden, Managing Member at Melanie Borden, LLC . The mesmerizing Wine Glass commercial shot the Lexus LS into the stratosphere, becoming one of the most talked-about marketing campaigns of the year. Captivating the Audience Once Line at a Time Transitioning from big, bold headlines and visually stunning commercials cleverly designed to capture the attention of their target market, the next big disruptor in the automotive marketing industry took and more direct, singular approach. According to Dane Scott, President of Windstar Studios Inc ., the simplicity of words scrolling across a screen boosted sales for dealerships on a global scale. "In my forty years of creating Tier 3 and Tier 2 automotive commercials, one, in particular, stands out: The Scroll. Words simply scrolling up the screen." "The style gives it the appearance of breaking news, so you pay attention and almost have to read it. Dealers loved it, and it was effective, easy to produce, and affordable. I don't recall how many of these we made, but it was easily in the hundreds. From a personal perspective, the Super Bowl commercial that grabbed my attention the most was KIA's Robo Dog. Like many, I am teetering on the edge of going electric. Robo gave the commercial emotion and something to connect to. Plugging the dog into the EV to bring it back to life made the car a hero." Moving Into the New Age As the auto industry continues to evolve, disruptive marketing practices are becoming increasingly important and technologically advanced. As the auto industry has become more crowded and competitive, disruptive marketing practices have had to shift with technology booms, changing social- political beliefs, and a marketing landscape that has become entirely saturated. In the second part of this series, we will explore disruptive marketing in the auto industry throughout the past two decades, and learn how some companies have effectively broken through the noise to capture attention and find success.  
How Do You Measure Up? Part Two

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How Google’s Website Ranking Factors Rank OEM Websites (vs Independents) PART 2 In Part 1 of this two-part series on website ranking factors, we discussed Page Speed, Page Index, and Technical SEO scores. We look at the results of our AntiguRecon tool which surveyed over 35,000 dealer websites using Google’s algorithm to drive its calculations. We found that independent dealer websites tend to be faster than franchise websites and that we have some work to do if we want to improve our industry’s performance overall. In this article, we look at dealership website Accessibility and website design Best Practices scores. Let’s have some fun… Average Accessibility Score What is Accessibility and why is it relevant? In the past I’ve written about this topic in detail, but for here let’s just say that your website should be designed so that it can be “read” by people who have limited sight, or are sight impaired in full. In the latter case, a screen reader needs to be able to “read” the page in an understandable way. All of this is required because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990 and lawsuits have been on the rise for non-compliant websites. All that said, there is good news in that while there is room for improvement, the ratings are not as horrible as the page speed and index ranking factors. If we look at the graph below, Independents over-perform OEMs again with an average score of 83.4 to an OEM rating of 73.9 . Mazda got the lowest average rating at 67.1 , while the highest score went to Bentley at 87.1 . Average Best Practices Score The final score in Google’s Lighthouse algorithm gets into the best practices that are employed in the creation of a dealer website. This score tracks common mistakes made by web developers. Google’s algorithm weights elements based on risks they might pose, among other things. Google itself states that this quality score is a “helpful diagnostic tool, not a key performance indicator”. Nevertheless, a low score tells you that you should talk with your provider to see what might be improved to improve performance. Often you will find that some of the best practice issues have to do with optimizing file use which in many cases can improve speed. So how did our intrepid OEMs and Independents do? Let’s look at the table below. Bentley, following its previous trend, is the top performing OEM, while Hyundai has work to do at 57.8 . That ranking definitely says that there is room for improvement on their websites. Further research could tell us why those sites score so low, but we’ll leave that for another article. Finally, Independents outpaced OEMs at 76.7 . The Final Word - Part 2 What all this data tells us is that there is a lot of room for improvement in how we construct dealer websites. OEMs and their website providers would do well to look at the data and think seriously about how they can reduce the impact, or volume, of third party code on their websites.   This is a bigger conversation than what you might think. In my view, many dealer websites have become cluttered and clogged with distractions that slow down the site’s load time and lose sight of the purpose of the website, that is, to generate leads and business for the dealership. With mobile by far outstripping any other tool that is used to view a website, it would behoove us to have websites that really are designed with a mobile first mentality and a commitment to speed.   I can only hope for change, but in the meantime we’ll keep collecting the data and releasing it to spur conversation and improvement. Should anyone want to discuss this article, or the tool we used to collect the data, you can reach me here .
How Do You Measure Up?

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How Google’s Website Ranking Factors Rank OEM Websites (vs Independents) PART 1 Google measures everything, from your website’s Page Speed Score, to your SEO or Best Practices Score. Why? Because from Google’s point of view, all of your website data feeds their algorithm’s ability to rank you relative to your competitors.   Since understanding and manipulating data is the key to success online, it would serve you well to know important ranking factors that Google uses to rank you.   Let’s look at Google’s website ranking factors, and what each means: Page Speed Score - Refers to how quickly a user is able to see and interact with content on your website. Speed Index Score - Is based on the average time it takes for visible parts of the page to be displayed.  SEO Score - A calculation of the user-facing and technical aspects of a website. Accessibility Score - A technical review, or accessibility audit , of how well users can access content and navigate a website. Best Practices Score - Based on an audit that checks common web development mistakes. How We Rank Dealer Websites We wrote a tool called SurgeRecon that we use to measure individual dealers against their competitors for a whole range of KPIs (besides just Google ranking factors), but since I don’t know you or your dealership, we’re going to have fun and rank OEMs against each other (since our tool can do that too). If, after reading this, you want an evaluation, contact me here or call me at 954.507.6468. Average Page Speed Score A page speed score refers to how quickly a user can see and interact with content. There is a lot that goes into this calculation, but that explanation is close enough for simplicity’s sake. As you may guess, mobile site speed is a LOT more important than desktop speed ,since most people browse by phone. Over 80% of average car shoppers typically use their phones, while those in the Hispanic community are typically above 90%.   A couple of weeks ago, we ran a SurgeRecon mobile site speed report for over 35,000 dealers and then divided the list based on OEM franchises vs Independents. Remember: These are Google’s numbers, not ours. The results are not good, to put it mildly..   Looking at the table below, you can see that GM had the worst speed score at 15.6 while Independents walked away with the best score.  Admittedly, this list does not include all OEMs since we took the liberty to remove those OEMs who had a very small footprint. That said, when you look at the results, you see some winners and losers (with Bentley as the top performing OEM and GM with the lowest score).   It’s not all bad news though. The average OEM speed has improved since a year ago. Last year, the average site speed for OEM sites was around 13.   Average Speed Score: Franchises vs Indies It’s interesting to note that Independent dealers are the fastest of the bunch. The average speed for OEMs is 25 , while the speed for Independents is twice as good at 51.3 ! What’s causing this difference? Why is Google’s algorithm seeing Independent sites as loading twice as fast on mobile devices? If we had the time, we would have run a third party review to see all the stuff that is probably clogging up site speed, but since we’ve run such reports before, we can say that third party code is usually the cause of speed issues along with other load speed clogging items such as sliders. We’ve also seen that Independents don’t use as many third party tools (particularly OEM-mandated tracking and analytics tools), thus have improved performance. The bigger question is what can be done to minimize third party tools on sites, especially when we know that the more you have, the slower the load speed. But I’ll leave that to another discussion in the future. Average Speed Index Score Google’s Speed Index Score measures how fast the contents of a page are visually displayed. Based on data from Google, as page load time goes from 1 second to 6 seconds, the probability of a bounce increases over 100%. Jump to 10 seconds, and you’re looking at 123%. I wrote a whole article about this a few years ago with David Kane and Tom Kline, and the data is as relevant today as it was then. Look at the graph below, we can see that OEM mobile websites take about twice as long to load as Independent sites. Not good. Despite the poor performance, however, there is good news in that load times have improved since we wrote our article 2 years ago. The average speed index at that time was over 13 seconds. There’s hope… Average Technical SEO Score All in all, the average technical SEO score is quite good for both groups. For Independents, the average score was 87.4 , while for OEMs, the average score was 85.4 .   Who was highest and who was lowest? Volvo happily pulled a score of 96.1 . That’s quite respectable. BMW, on the other hand, scored an 82.1 .   It is not hard to find out what might be undermining your SEO score. Usually, you’ll find a myriad of small adjustments which can correct any performance issues. You can probably get this information from your provider, or if you read the next paragraph, you’ll find out what you can do on your own. 😉 The Final Word - Part 1 You can’t ignore Google no matter how much you might want to do so. Google plays an outsized role in our world so we must work within their rules as well as the rules of simple reality, especially when it comes to device performance for our websites. The data above shows us some website performance winners and losers, but it should also give us hope because we can identify what is hurting load times (for PageSpeed and Index Scores) and SEO performance. We have that data and you can too if you use simple Google tools such as PageSpeed Insights (or contact us for help). With all that said, there is more to the story.  Look forward to it here: Part 2 will be out next week!
The Rise in Consumer Streaming Services: New Vehicle Shopping Trends Align

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The theme of this series of articles is one of disruption within and affecting the automotive business. This article is intended to explore the intersection between evolving new vehicle shopping behavior, changes in video consumption, and new challenges local dealerships face as they move into and through the next stage of pandemic recovery. While dealerships have been enjoying the tailwinds of a ‘sellers’ market for the last 18 months largely due to pent up demand of the covid pandemic, recent political and economic trends and corresponding consumer sentiment threaten to soften demand across many sectors including automotive retail.  As dealerships look to increase their marketing to customers, how has the landscape changed post-pandemic?  With new car inventories remaining scarce and customers becoming increasingly comfortable transacting more of the shopping process on-line, there is a decreasing propensity for a customer to choose a particular store based solely on factors like location and inventory. Without the traditional drivers customers will choose their dealership using other criteria. While this could be as simple as name recognition or your stores’ location, factors such as trust, competency, ease of transaction and connection to the community become increasingly relevant. Most importantly, your point of difference needs to be communicated early in the shopping process, as opposed to when a customer arrives on your doorstep.  Nothing has the power to tell this message more strongly than video and simultaneous to the changes that have taken place in the automotive space, there have been equally dynamic changes occurring in the ways that dealers can deliver video. This brings us to our second disruption. Video consumption patterns and technologies changed dramatically during the pandemic. Beyond YouTube, facebook, or video on your website, streaming video (or OTT) is replacing the traditional engine of branding and driving demand once commanded by broadcast advertising and (before that) newspaper and print media.   The pandemic rapidly accelerated the growth of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and a host of others.. A couple of quick stats; Nearly 30% of US consumers cut the cord in 2021.  Nearly all Americans aged 25-34 access TV content through the internet; 78% of people watch online videos every week, and 55% view online videos every day. As of 2022, an average person is predicted to spend 100 minutes per day watching online services. 72% of customers said they would rather learn about a product or service by way of video Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in the text ( Insivia ) Streaming video advertising offers many unique advantages over traditional television and alternative video delivery methods. Unlike traditional television, streamed ads are not able to be easily skipped thru or scrolled past, with a view thru rate approaching 99%. This means they offer a level of engagement not seen since the days before the channel changer was invented. Contrast this to a short form product like you tube where 95% of people click skip the moment they can. Or facebook where users scroll through the content quickly. Streaming advertising allows you to not only target your ads to precise demographics and geography, but to exactly target your desired customers choosing from thousands of data points related to customer behavior.  To put it simply, you target the customer, not the channel. You can play service messages to consumers that already own your type of vehicle, or target in -market shoppers for your brand, a competing brand, or other criteria related to where the car shopper is in the decision funnel and the recent actions they have displayed on-line. New developments not only make it possible to target viewers to the household IP address but also to the actual device ID where they are viewing the content. This means you can target mom and dad in the living room, while skipping the kids in their bedrooms. There are new ways to track the effectiveness of the content and the subsequent actions that viewers take. For example you can track how many customers visited your website within five days of being exposed to an ad impression, and what actions or conversions occurred at that visit.  Streaming advertising (sometimes referred to by ad sellers as OTT which stands for content delivered ’On Top of (traditional) Television’ services) is sold in a variety of ways, by a multitude of vendors. Within the ‘streaming’ subset; ads can be delivered on Connected TVs (the big screen on your wall), or via tablets, laptops, desktop and cell phones. The segments can be further divided by such criteria as ‘full episode programs’ (traditional TV shows), short form clips, pre-roll, mid-roll and more. I recommend working with someone who has access to the full inventory of products and can impartially recommend the best solution for your needs and market. As an example, the products we offer work from 6,000+ data points and we test and modify campaigns regularly to produce the right balance of completed views and website clicks.  Conclusion: the pandemic has brought many changes in our lives and the way that customers are choosing to do business with their local dealership. The growth of streaming video by consumers coupled with the advance targeting, delivery tools, more precise tracking and attribution provides a powerful new tool for dealerships to reach and engage this new breed of customers.
Connected Television Represents A Great Disruptive Opportunity for Dealers

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It is estimated that 39% of adults are watching video on a CTV device on a daily basis. This is up from 31% back in 2019 according to  data  from Leichtman Research Group (LRG)1. This represents a large audience with spending power and the desire to shop for a vehicle. As a result, dealerships are taking a closer look at the connected television medium because of who is viewing CTV, as well as how often, not just the overall households.  The increase in CTV also represents a disruptive leveling of the playing field for advertisers who historically have purchased traditional TV, and those who could not previously afford it due to budget constraints or efficiency concerns.  The programmatic targeting capabilities of CTV allows for large advertisers to buy more efficiently through diversification of their media mix and better data fidelity in their audience reach. It also allows smaller or more niche advertisers an opportunity to advertise in front of larger audiences on television without the high cost and ad waste associated with traditional media buys. Creating greater efficiencies The decision for auto retailers and their advertising agency partners to consider CTV is less about re-allocating digital media budgets to video, which most dealers already execute through programmatic and social video campaigns.  Furthermore, dealers should not entirely abandon their traditional media buys and budgets, either. However, in many cases those dealers that begin to explore a reallocation of portions of their traditional media investments over to CTV see significant improvement in the performance of their overall media mix and experience a positive impact on their cost per unit sold and serviced.  Increases in target markets The first CTV benefit is scale, where dealers can leverage large programming opportunities and access across major recognizable logos that has strong coverage across networks and devices. Secondly, dealers and their partners in CTV are continuously working to understand the market penetration they are gaining or losing, and have access to unique data technology to ensure campaigns are on par with the reach of top cable providers. These partners also offer dealers access to digital media purchase technology that leverages a Demand Side Platform (DSP), which is software that allows media buyers to buy each impression based on whether the viewer meets their audience parameters. They can also help ensure ad content is not played along side or in tandem with violence or other sensitive subjects that would be detrimental to a dealer’s overall brand values. Driving greater bottom-line results While all of this sounds promising, results are what matters. One mid-size regional dealer in Florida recently tested an Amazon DSP against other traditional media platforms and ran a two-week CTV campaign, directed to in-market shoppers on FireTV, within their store’s PMA. Their campaign measured correlative metrics holistically against all digital media channels including search, fixed ops, social, sales, and ROs. The dealer saw significant gains in performance across every measured metric when looking both at period-over-period and month-over-month. Furthermore, to test the fidelity of the data, they also measured key metrics when the campaign was terminated and saw almost a 15% decline in impressions and clicks in search, coupled with a distinct drop in shopper engagement on the website. This included a +57% increase in sales, +17% increase in closed ROs, and a +16% month-over-month increase in dealership revenue, according to data from PureCars. Dealers are naturally hesitant to jump into the CTV pool all at once. However, with the results from this dealer’s trial along with the ongoing growth of the CTV category, this disruptive platform will continue to grow as a viable alternative providing a competitive edge to those dealers that explore their options early on.   1:  https://www.leichtmanresearch.com/39-of-adults-watch-video-via-a-connected-tv-device-daily/