Issue Date: Dealer Business Briefing Aug 1, 2010, Posted On: 8/10/2010
What’s working in dealership advertising Ideas for making your ad dollars work harder When the going gets tough, it's very tempting to take a hatchet to major dealership expense areas. But don't make any hasty decisions regarding your annual advertising budget.
"I've been doing this a long time and I've never seen a dealership have long term success pulling back. Nervous Nellies might lose steam in the marketplace and it costs more to get back up to speed, says Paul Field, chief strategy officer for Renegade, a full-service advertising and marketing agency that specializes in retail automotive advertising.
Spending ad dollars more discriminately and crafting your website to attract and engage customers is where you need to be concentrating your efforts, he told Dealer Business Briefing.
Cable television seems to be achieving the best response in many markets, notes Mr. Field. Dealers should be devoting a higher percentage of their overall advertising budget to used cars and service, he says. He also suggests promoting vehicles that get better gas mileage; let customers know they don't have to drive a little car although gas prices have sky-rocketed. Remind customers too that well-tuned vehicles get better gas mileage.
Mr. Field, expects 2010 advertising costs to remain relatively flat. "It won't be a bargain hunters' oasis," he says. Still, you can stretch your ad dollars further.
For the best deals, he recommends renewing advertising on a quarterly basis rather than weekly or monthly. Locking in for longer periods can also have disadvantages since for most electronic media the future is unknown; he compares this to the airlines and their tiers. Also, "don't wait every week to see what the manufacturers are doing - cut your own message of value," he says.
Broadcasting is capturing the lion's share of advertising among his dealer clients - about 65 percent of their budgets, though it varies from market to market. Of that, maybe 60 percent is television (75 to 80 percent cable); 40 percent radio, says Mr. Field. Again, the breakdown can vary by market.
Mr. Field suggests that dealers do research since the plethora of cable stations out there can be a mixed bag. He notes that stations that tend to show strongly across different markets, based on viewership and sales, are National Geographic, A&E, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.
The radio formats he says that tend to produce better quality traffic are the least duplicated ones, such as oldies, country western and classic rock. The response to news radio is increasing and AM radio has also made a tremendous comeback. Radio ads should be 60-second spots, says Mr. Field. "Sixty seconds is what makes radio work; 30 seconds is wasting money," he says.
Renegade's dealer clients, on average, are now devoting just 20 percent of their advertising budgets to print. Internet related activity is capturing 25 percent, and dealers are using more of their radio airtime (perhaps 25 percent) to talk about their websites.
Radio ads have to hook listeners within the first five to six seconds; the same goes for TV, says Mr. Field. So get to your lead quickly. Make a list of mandatory items to include in your ads such as any current theme to be mirrored in all your advertising and marketing; a slogan or message; and your dealership contact information.
Twenty years ago, Mr. Field urged auto dealers to include 800 numbers in their ads. Now he urges them to also include web addresses, particularly on radio and TV (print ads have been less effective at pulling people to websites). On TV, it's OK to just display this information. In fact, with TV "less is more" these days: less audio copy and fewer high-impact words and quick cuts (scene changes) are getting better responses, he says.
Renegade is based in hunt Valley, Maryland. Paul field can be contacted at 410-667-1400.