Goodbye “Spray and Pray,” Hello Data: A Quick Guide to Automotive Display Advertising.


Oct 11 12:53 pm
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Follow the money.


If you want to discover the most transparent and cost effective way of attracting in-market shoppers to your business, look at where the ad dollars are leaving, and where they’re headed. Revenues for Internet advertising surpassed 20 billion dollars in the first six months of 2013, up 18% from the same period in 2012. With regard to display advertising in particular, advertisers boosted their spend 9% to $6.1 billion, closing in fast on the $8.7 billion dedicated to paid search (The automotive industry is responsible for 13% of the overall 20 billion, up from 12% last year).


Compare these numbers to the newspaper industry, which has suffered a 51.6% decline in revenues in the past six years, and you’ll see why display ads have become a critical element of profitable digital campaigns.


But what do the numbers mean?


Simple: Your colleagues – and local competitors – are investing aggressively to buy display ads in the places ‘closest to the car’ (You know, on every one of the 18+ sites, of which there are millions, the average car buyer visits prior to his or her purchase). The results are more qualified leads and floor traffic that move cars off your lot significantly faster.


But all display advertising isn’t created equal. Here are three essential components of successful dealership display campaigns – and things to consider when launching your own campaigns:


1. Display is all about targeting. The days of “spray and pray” are over.

The massive influx of ad dollars in the display market means there are thousands of new entrants to the field. Most lack access to the sophisticated technology, data scientists, and professionals required to successfully target the 3% of the population researching their next purchase.


Real-life example of a $60,000 loss: A mid-Atlantic dealer group decided to go big with a massive display ad investment that they entrusted to their regional newspaper organization. When the month-long trial was over, the results were shocking: 15 total ad clicks, and no way to understand how many people exposed to the ad visited the group website.


A post-mortem investigation revealed that the newspaper spent the money targeting visitors to its own website, along with 18-65 year-olds in the local market who visited websites that work with popular ad networks.


In order to execute a profitable display campaign, ads need to be targeted, and that requires thinking beyond a blanket “spray and pray” approach, and not dismissing display in your ad strategy. Delivering ads to anyone sitting in front of his or her browser won’t work. Serving ads to a specific individual reading a new or used car review, and bidding aggressively to ensure your ad’s visibility, will.


2. Data – not creative alone – defines winning campaigns.

Before 2009, display ads couldn’t effectively be matched to people who exhibited specific behavioral characteristics (luxury car buyers, gardening enthusiasts, hair-replacement shoppers).


Times have changed.


Successful advertising providers now use shopper data and analytics to recognize when uniquely relevant shoppers are viewing a page directly related to your inventory, and serve a display ad compelling enough to gain their attention. pioneered a new form of “machine learning” to deliver the right ad at the right time to the right shopper.  Machine learning combines click-through data for specific ads, on-site shopper behavior, and broader behavioral trends to deliver the most relevant ad to every shopper.


Here’s how it works in real life: Let’s say you have an excess number of compact sedans to move before the close of the month. Taking advantage of the Unified Advertising Exchange, automatically takes notice of your inventory priorities and bids aggressively for the attention of compact sedan intenders. You can also serve ads for your compact sedans on the review pages of competing makes and models to entice shoppers in a cost effective and compelling manner.


Car and Driver Premium Display

3. UAX Targeting makes it possible to advertise effectively on premium research websites like Road & Track and Car and Driver.

Competing for the attention of in-market shoppers browsing high-octane review websites like is critically important. These are the places to which high concentrations of car buyers gravitate for information on the cars they’re interested in purchasing (remember, at this stage many shoppers will switch from one brand choice to another). This is your moment! You need to fight like hell to get your ad in front of these shoppers.


Gut check: So you think you’re already advertising on a premium network of websites? Thing again. has an exclusive partnership to serve display ads to the wildly popular review pages of 12 premium websites like


The Unified Advertising Exchange (UAX) includes the ability to capture these automotive buyers who visit premium websites like Car and Driver, Road & Track, J.D. Power, and NADA Guides. These websites are referred to as “premium” destinations because nearly 85% of the people who visit them to read reviews are currently in-market to buy a car.


Bonus: The UAX delivers display ads on websites like J.D. Power and Autobytel to shoppers that have never visited your website. This “Audience Targeting” ensures that qualified shoppers visiting premium websites will have your message broadcast to them across the sites they visit going forward (The New York Times, NBC Nightly News, and MSN Autos, for example).


So what does this all mean? Machine learning, real-time bidding, display ads on premium websites, audience targeting, and the UAX? The message to take away is this:


1. Display advertising represents an opportunity to exponentially grow the number of shoppers who will visit your digital and physical showrooms, moving more cars in less time.


2. Not all display advertising solutions are created equal (remember the $60,000 loss example?).


3. Investing in the Unified Advertising Exchange guarantees an unrivaled level of strategic results in both the long- and short-term.


Joe Mescher is a media consultant


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