Automotive advertising and media spend have been under greater scrutiny at the manufacturer, regional association, and dealership levels over the past twelve months. As a result, marketers need to prove the greatest return on their marketing investments.
Third-party automotive websites have traditionally been an effective outlet for automotive advertisers to efficiently reach their target audience. Across Jumpstart Automotive Media's partner websites 72% of consumers state that they are in-market for a vehicle and nearly 60% of those consumers say that they will purchase within the year. By researching vehicles, reading expert and consumer reviews, and looking at photos or videos, these consumers are raising their hands as car shoppers and providing advertisers the ability to get the appropriate messages in front of the right audience. This can provide a greater return on investment by eliminating much of the advertising waste that exists when profiling consumers based on demographics or psychographics alone.
In-Market Is Still An Undecided Market
Building brand awareness, establishing trust and maintaining perception of good quality and value are key challenges that marketers face. Traditionally, they have used mass reach forms of media such as television, magazines and web portals to accomplish these goals. It is often assumed that brand-building objectives have been met through these larger channels and that it's no longer necessary to reach consumers who are in-market with a brand building message.
Only 50% of in-market shoppers know which body style they will look for at their next vehicle purchase
The glaring flaw with this assumption is the belief that consumers already know what they want to purchase when they begin their online shopping and research. In reality, only 50% of shoppers that come to third-party sites even know which body style they are considering, let alone which specific model. A tremendous opportunity exists to build consideration for a make or model and influence the purchase decision of someone who is ready to buy.
Because most vehicles are purchased offline, marketers cannot specifically equate online shopping activity to a transaction so they have found other methods of gauging the effectiveness of their digital advertising efforts. advertisement
Effectiveness Measures are Currently Flawed
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) clients measure the effectiveness of their in-market advertising based on activities that take place on their own site once a consumer has either clicked on an advertisement or has come to their site after having viewed an advertisement on a third-party auto site. These are often called conversions or key performance indicators (KPIs). The conversions that are most valued are those which indicate purchase intent. The goal is generally to identify the consumer and to get them closer to a dealership and ultimately a purchase.
In many cases these activities are assigned a weight or value based on the importance of the action. Third-party automotive sites are then held accountable for performance standards based on how well they convert shoppers to take action on the OEM site, and are benchmarked against competitors for cost efficiency. This has become the standard for in-market media, but it only represents a small portion of the shopping activities occurring.
Measuring these activities is an effective way to gauge the success of in-market advertising for those consumers who are close to their purchase decision. Naturally, a consumer who is close to deciding on a specific model may be more likely to download a brochure or request a quote from a dealer.
Standard OEM KPIs:
Request a quote
Download a brochure
Schedule a test drive
Locate a dealer
Build and price a vehicle
What's lacking is an account of the activity that is happening earlier in the shopping process. Despite the fact that over 70% of these shoppers are in-market to purchase within a year, they're not always immediately ready to respond to a pricing incentive by requesting a quote, or by going to the dealer's website to schedule a test drive. Due to the scale of this purchase, a consumer generally takes longer coming to a decision, and utilizes many resources prior to taking one of these actions. Therefore, awareness campaigns do not typically produce the large volume of low-funnel activities expected when compared to make/model page targeting.
The assumption that awareness initiatives aren't effective in helping generate greater consideration of a brand on third-party automotive websites clearly exists in the market today. However, OEM advertisers and their agencies are missing a tremendous opportunity to influence consideration of their brand by not deploying awareness placements on third party sites. In fact, there have been many notable success stories when measuring other important factors to provide a more holistic view of the campaign's results.
View the Entire Picture to Truly Measure Effectiveness
In evaluating the success of an awareness campaign on third-party automotive sites, it is common for marketers to view the post-click activities that occur on their site once the consumer has clicked on the advertisement. Rather than only taking the post-click activities into account, Jumpstart Automotive Media has been working with advertisers to observe the broader impact these campaigns have on consumer shopping behavior both in content they consume as well as engagement with advertisements once they are deeper in the shopping process. Depending on the placement and the message, a variety of publisher-side metrics can be measured to determine whether a campaign was successful in increasing interest in a brand or model.
Some of these metrics could include; lift in unique users who visited brand/model pages, growth in total pageviews pertaining to the model, and an upward trend in average pages viewed per user. The increase in engagement on a brand or model page could also lead to greater engagement with ad units while on those pages or on the marketer's website after viewing the advertisement. In this analysis it has been found that an awareness campaign is effective not only in driving consideration for a make or model, but also in driving increased engagement with retention advertisements on those pages. A homepage or category sponsorship may impact a vehicle's share of shopping activity among it's competitive set. This variance in share can also indicate success. Lastly, competitive messaging can be effectively monitored by observing competitive cross-shopping and reverse cross-shopping data All of these trends provide a bigger-picture vision into the success of awareness campaigns.
For example, if we were to measure how effective a Luxury Sedan sponsorship for the Lexus LS was in increasing consideration among luxury sedan shoppers, we would look at the both the cross- and reverse cross-shopping data for the LS. This would show the percent of LS shoppers are viewing specific competitive vehicles (cross-shopping), and the percent of competitive vehicle shoppers that are viewing the LS (reverse cross-shopping).
The findings shared in this study will demonstrate definitively how effective awareness placements are on third-party auto sites when measuring beyond standard KPIs. It is imperative that OEMs and their agencies begin to incorporate these measures into their media evaluation process moving forward.
Publisher-side Trends To Measure Impact of Awareness Campaigns:
Growth in Unique Users
Growth in Pageviews and Pageviews per User
Change in share of shopping
Cross-shopping and Reverse Cross-shopping
- Provide a holistic view of the value of an awareness campaign by highlighting shopping activity and growth in consideration after exposure to advertisements on a third-party automotive website.
- Demonstrate that shopping behaviors on a third-party automotive site provide more value and insight to an automotive marketer than measuring only those actions taken post-click.
- Encourage marketers to use measurement approaches based on the campaign objectives rather than measuring all campaigns equally.
After the observation of ten different awareness campaigns across brands that vary from luxury to economy, high to low volume sales, and mainstream versus niche in popularity, we found the following results that indicate there is more to measure than the standard KPI set.
- Traffic Growth on Make & Model Pages: Across all campaigns (whether on the homepage, new car entry pages, or on vehicle segment or category pages) we found that there was either an immediate lift in brand traffic or a lift in the month following the awareness campaign.
- Average Lift in Brand Traffic: On average, the campaigns measured saw a 34% lift in Unique Users to the brand's research pages, a 42%lift in brand Pageviews and a 9% lift in Pageviews per User directly following the awareness message.
- Increase in Engagement with Retention Advertisements during Awareness Campaign: Awareness advertisements not only drove incremental traffic to make and model pages, but also drove higher engagement with retention advertisements. Brands recognized up to 58% increase in clicks and up to 38% increase in post-click activities from the retention advertisements.
- Growth in Share of Shoppers: The brands running awareness placements saw a substantial gain in share of shoppers within the vehicle segment following the campaign, with an average lift of 52%from pre-to-post campaign periods.
- Increase in Consideration among Competitive Shoppers: Not only were these brands able to increase their share within a vehicle segment, but they also grew consideration at an average of 58%among shoppers of key competitive brands when looking at reverse cross shopping reports.
Traffic Growth to Brand Make & Model Pages
Time and time again, we see that awareness campaigns have a positive impact on brand consideration. One way to look at this impact is the variance in brand or model-specific pages on a third-party automotive site before, during and after an awareness campaign. Not only is it telling to see an increase in Unique Users, but increases in Pageviews and Pageviews per User also exhibit higher levels of interest or engagement with the brand/model.
In Table 1.1 below we've observed ten different awareness campaigns from varying brands, models and time periods, and determined that on average, the lift in traffic and usage on brand pages ranged from 9% to 42% directly following the campaign. Specific examples of these campaigns and their individual results can be found in the Creative Appendix at the end of the study.
In analyzing all of the brands that utilized category or homepage awareness placements, some were able to achieve growth in unique visitors to their brand pages upwards of 50%. Some examples of individual growth can be seen in table 1.2 and 1.3 as well as in the Creative Appendix.
In addition to the increase in brand engagement, it has been recognized that there has been significant impact on engagement levels with advertisements deeper into shopping on make and model pages. Marketers have seen improved performance on their retention campaigns during the period of running an awareness campaign on third-party automotive sites as we see in the brand example in Table 1.4.
By reaching consumers earlier in their shopping/research process, additional consideration can be gained for a vehicle which may not have otherwise been in the consideration set of the shopper. The incremental lift in users who research the brand/vehicle is most often overlooked in the evaluation of awareness campaign success, yet it's typically the most telling metric.
Gaining Share of Shoppers vs. Segment Competitors
Another telling aspect of advertising impact can be found in the variances in share from an advertising period to a dark period. As we see in the examples in Table 2.1, each brand saw significant lift in its share when comparing the pre-advertising period to the post-advertising period. The average lift in share of vehicle segment shoppers, across all brands in this study, was a stunning 52%.
The analysis of high-impact awareness placements showed that gains in consideration by one brand resulted in one or more competitors' loss. The story often unfolds as in the example below in Table 2.2. Our test brand is a low volume compact segment brand, both in sales and shopper consideration. Within its vehicle segment, key competitors are some of the highest volume vehicles and most are mainstream, established brands. The test brand managed to grow its share of segment shoppers, while during the same period each of its competitors lost consideration, and the category as a whole only saw slight improvement.
Reverse Cross-Shopping — Key Insight for Growth in Consideration
Similar to variance in share of shopping, publishers are able to provide a deeper understanding of the cross-visitation behaviors when consumers are shopping and researching vehicles. One model's shoppers may also be looking at vehicles that the manufacturer doesn't consider a competitor. When it occurs in higher frequency over time, it may cause the manufacturer and the agency to reconsider its competitive set.
The reverse is when competitor shoppers are frequently viewing the model in question, and this too can shed light on the true competitive set for that model. Jumpstart often views reverse cross-shopping data for vehicles that deployed sponsorships and conquest campaigns to gauge the variance in consideration among competitors. The results have been compelling both uncovering which models are cross-shopped most frequently, and how the brand in question has been able to improve consideration among competitors through advertising campaigns. Two remarkable examples are summarized in Table 3.1 where growth in consideration is demonstrated among two test brands that were nearly out of consideration among competitor shoppers until they ran sponsorships and competitive messaging. For each test brand, 5 competitive vehicles were observed to determine the average lift in reverse cross-shopping frequency.
In just a short period of advertising, both brands were able to move consideration significantly through awareness and segment sponsorships, as well as competitive messaging.
One specific brand example in Table 3.2 demonstrates how a truck brand was able to grow its consideration among shoppers who were researching competitive vehicles. In January, 2009 the test brand ran a truck sponsorship and in February, competitive shoppers researched the test brand up to 139% more than the previous month.
These examples demonstrate how awareness campaigns provide marketers the opportunity to gain consideration from consumers who are shopping competitive vehicles and the results speak for themselves. A more detailed analysis of cross and reverse cross-shopping can be found in image 1.4 of the Creative Appendix.
Summary & Conclusions
This case study outlines new key metrics that must be considered when measuring the success of awareness and category placements on third-party automotive websites. The current KPI approach fails to take a holistic view of brand success by not including these metrics. Publisher partners are able to provide a broader spectrum of automotive shopping activity than standard KPIs. Incorporating these insights can only improve the understanding that automotive advertisers have of the success of a campaign.
- Awareness campaigns unquestionably drive traffic growth for brands.
- Across all campaigns there was either an immediate lift in brand traffic or a lift in the month following the awareness campaign. On average, the campaigns measured saw a 34% lift in Unique Users to the brand's research pages, a 42% lift in brand Pageviews and a 9% lift in Pageviews per User directly following the awareness message.
- Brands that placed sponsorships not only recognized growth in traffic, but also growth in share of vehicle shoppers within its segment.
- Across all brands tested, an average of 52% lift in share was achieved following a homepage or category sponsorship.
- Cross-shopping and reverse cross-shopping data are effective in gauging growth in brand consideration.
- Test brands recognized average growth in consideration of 58% among competitive shoppers.
Within the creative appendix, specific examples of homepage awareness, category sponsorships and conquesting campaigns can be found. This provides a sample of a few of the brands used in this study for which Jumpstart was granted permission. Insights into the publisher success metrics and campaign details are provided for each example.
Image 1.1 Scion Homepage Awareness Placement
Image 1.2 & 1.3 Scion Competitive Messaging against Dodge Caliber& Honda Element
|Publisher Success Metrics:|
|Placement Type:||Homepage Masthead|
|Advertising Message:||Brand pricing|
|Campaign Flight Dates:||10/20/2008 - 11/30/2008|
|Traffic Lift during Campaign:||+50% Pageviews & Pageviews per User|
|Variance after Campaign:||-35% Unique Users, -56% Pageviews, -32% Pageviews per User|
|Competitive View:||Scion saw a 4% lift in traffic in November when five key competitors dropped from 6-16%. During this same period Scion grew anywhere from 14% to 242% in consideration of competitor shoppers based on reverse cross-shopping trends.|
Image 1.4 Cross- and Reverse Cross-Shopping Data for Scion & Competitors
Image 2.1 Subaru Crossover/Wagon Category Sponsorship
|Publisher Success Metrics:|
|Placement Type:||Crossover/Wagon Category Sponsorship|
|Advertising Message:||Vehicle Redesign|
|Campaign Flight Dates:||October 1, 2009 - October 31, 2009|
|Traffic Variance:||Unique Users shopping the Subaru Outback increased 24% from September to October, when sponsorship was live.|
|Share of Shoppers:||Outback's share of Wagon and Crossover shoppers on Jumpstart sites grew 14% during the month of their sponsorship.|
|Cross Shopping:||Competitors fell in consideration of Outback shoppers, namely Volvo XC70 (-9%) and Volkswagen Passat (-28%).|
|Reverse Cross Shopping:||Competitive shoppers' consideration of the Outback increased from 6% to 90% from September to October.|
|Leads Submitted:||Outback's leads submitted by Jumpstart shoppers grew 162% from September to October, while all leads submitted only grew by approximately 2% over that same time period.|
|Key Takeaways:||Outback was able to reach more shoppers, gain consideration from competitors, increase their share among consumers shopping in the Wagon and Crossover segments, and increase leads during a period of advertising on an upper-funnel page across Jumpstart sites.|
In-Market Strategy Appendix
The most common practice during the planning season is to first secure media on retention pages, the lowest hanging fruit in the in-market space. A brand's make and model pages on third-party automotive websites are considered to be most valuable as consumers who are on these pages have often narrowed their next vehicle purchase down to an average of three models in their consideration set. The majority of an advertiser's in-market budget secures retention pages across top third-party automotive websites for the year and serves not only the purpose of messaging to consumers lower in the shopping funnel, but also blocking competitive models from being able to advertise here.
Conquest is a competitive form of advertising on third-party automotive websites. The capability exists in two forms. First, if an advertiser doesn't purchase 100% of their make/model inventory, it leaves it open for competitive advertisers. These opportunities are limited due to most OEMs protecting their model pages. The second way in which this can be done is through behavioral targeting, though this technology doesn't exist across all in-market websites. Through cookie data, an advertiser can re-target competitive shoppers with their messaging both on and off the third-party site where the consumer originated. Behavioral targeting provides advertisers greater reach of a very finite audience that may otherwise be limited in the contextual environment.
Vehicle category or segment pages are thought of as upper-funnel because the consumer is still in the process of deciding what type of vehicle they're looking at, and have not started narrowing down to specific models in that class. This provides the marketer the opportunity to generate awareness of key features of a vehicle that set them apart from the competition. Because of this, segment sponsorships also allow advertisers to reach shoppers who are looking at their competitors both in a contextual environment and through behavioral targeting.
These opportunities usually consist of entry pages where consumers haven't yet specified what they are shopping for. Most common are third-party automotive sites' homepages or new car research pages that will allow the consumer to begin researching by body style, price, quality ratings, etc. Because consumers aren't always ready to click on an advertisement right when they begin their research, these placements generally deliver a lower response rate and fewer key performance indicators on the marketer's website which is why agencies allocate the least amount of their in-market budgets to awareness opportunities. It is often stated that awareness is being generated through general news, hobby or lifestyle websites, and through traditional media outlets, therefore it isn't necessary on third-party automotive websites. The moneys that are set aside for awareness placements are typically reserved for new launches or a vehicle redesign that is making its way to market.
- Review multiple traffic trends across Jumpstart Automotive Media publisher websites (average Unique Users, Pageviews and Pageviews per User) in 2008 and 2009 to determine seasonal patterns.
- Examine multiple brands' traffic trends (average Unique Users, Pageviews and Pageviews per User) across Jumpstart sites for sufficient periods of time prior to and following advertising campaigns to determine variance during advertising flight.
- Evaluate brand/model traffic trends against vehicle segment trends to determine average variance in share of segment shoppers during awareness advertising flight.
- Compare brand/model traffic against key competitors' traffic on Jumpstart sites during awareness campaign.
- Identify any positive changes in cross- and reverse cross-shopping data as a result of the consideration generated from awareness advertising.
i Jumpstart Automotive Media Audience Survey, April, 2009
ii Jumpstart Automotive Media Audience Poll, August, 2009