Auto Advertising: What’s Ahead for Marketers

Imagine you’re shopping for a new car, and there’s one you’d really like to try.

But instead of taking it out for a spin, you put on an AR headset and do a virtual test drive.

That’s one of the emerging trends in the way people are buying cars, and it doesn’t stop there.

According to a recent survey, 49% of consumers would be comfortable buying a car via a direct-to-consumer experience, 44% would buy online with a curbside pickup from a retailer or dealer, and 24% are willing to test drive virtually!

Car buying habits are changing… 

From browsing and test driving, to researching which is the best make, model, and price, the process of buying a car has shifted on many fronts for the average consumer.

Long hours spent at dealerships are a thing of the past and more consumers are turning to the internet to research and even buy their next vehicle. Auto brands must adjust their marketing approach to fit these new consumer behaviors.

Outbrain partnered with TheContillery, the content engagement experts, to collect the latest insights across the auto industry and provide you with creative tips to boost your next car campaign on the open web.

Auto Shopping: Digital First

Despite ongoing production and supply chain disruptions, the auto industry forecast is still strong. In 2022, global light vehicle sales are expected to reach 84 million, reflecting a recovery after the massive drop in sales during the COVID pandemic. The electric vehicle market is particularly robust: 2.6 million electric vehicles (EVs) were sold globally in H1 2021 (up 160% compared to H1 2020), and an incredible 2 million EVs were sold in Q1 2022 alone. 

There is something that all these car sales have in common, and that’s the internet. According to Forrester, people consume an average of 11.4 pieces of content before purchasing a car. And the Drive to Decide Survey by Google/Kantar TNS showed that 92% of car buyers research online before they buy, and visit an average of 4.2 websites in the process.

The Open Web: The Key to the Car Buying Experience

Whether it’s reading car reviews, browsing price comparison websites, researching financing, or exploring trade-in options, there are many aspects of the car buying process that consumers now do online. In fact, according to a Forbes Wheels analysis, 80% of consumers prefer to search for a car online, 76% prefer to schedule their car pick-up appointment online, and 75% prefer to use online resources to determine the value of their trade-in vehicle.

As the car buying experience increasingly turns into a hybrid blend of online and offline touchpoints, it is vital that brands be visible to audiences natively, on the websites where potential customers enjoy spending their time. Indeed, as consumer trust is such an important factor in buying a car, it is interesting to note that 75% of consumers trust editorial-style content and recommendations compared to 54% who trust user-generated content on social media. 

Native Advertising: Drive Results, Without Disrupting the Reader Experience

For the auto industry, the fact that consumers are researching so heavily online provides an excellent opportunity to leverage native advertising to reach potential customers and gain brand visibility.

Native advertising enables advertisers to expose their brand to audiences outside of the “walled gardens” of social media, and connect with the consumer base when they are browsing the open web. This is particularly notable for the millennial consumer: one-third of millennials purchased from a brand after seeing a sponsored post.

Another benefit of native advertising is the advanced audience targeting capabilities based on interests, attributes, and engagement, rather than same-old demographic or geo targeting strategies. 

The wide range of native in-feed ad formats are designed to cut through the noise, defeat “banner blindness” and win real attention from consumers when they are actively searching for a new car. This includes advanced and immersive video ad experiences helping to drive discovery, consideration, and action among car shoppers.

By leveraging a high-quality native network, all of this happens on highly-trusted editorial environments, such as the world’s leading news, entertainment, and sports websites. This is vital to maintain the reputation and brand safety of auto companies and dealers, which is so critical to building customer trust and closing sales.

Data-Driven Insights for Your Native Campaigns

When Outbrain partnered with TheContillery, we focused on analyzing the best practices and most impacting visuals for auto campaigns. What did we find? A huge difference in performance among the variety of visual themes in car ads. What’s more, the best performing visuals tended to vary by vehicle type. 

For example, for SUV models, showing the car in nature, on dirt roads and with light colors performed better than ads showing the car in a city. For hatchbacks, ads showing the car next to a building or facade worked better than ads against a blank studio canvas. 

Take a look below or download the guide for more insights like these:

Quick tips for native auto campaigns:

  • The best consumer experiences are personalized: They’re also dynamic, meaning you’ll need to show a variety of placements and creatives to get the best results. Shake up your native mix with a range of static and video native ad formats, such as standard native ads, Carousel ads, and Outbrain’s exclusive Native Awareness+ ads and Clip ads.
  • Focus on conversion-based KPIs, rather than just clicks: Outbrain offers a range of ad engagement KPIs, such as Landing Rate, Time Spent, New Visitors, and Repeated Visits, as well as high-value actions such as collecting leads through car configurator forms, store locators, or brochure downloads. Make sure to set the right KPIs for your campaign goals.
  • Get advanced with your ad bidding: Even the most engaging ads targeted to the perfect audiences aren’t enough to maximize your ROAS without the proper bid strategy.  Outbrain’s Conversion Bid Strategies (CBS) use machine learning and AI methodology to optimize and auto-adjust your bids in order to hit your campaign goals.

Auto Native Advertising Campaigns: Case By Case

See how auto brand icons are building awareness, nurturing customers in the consideration stage, and driving conversions with native ads.

Volvo: 1.8M unique site visits in 6 months

Volvo uses Outbrain retargeting and Lookalike audiences to increase awareness of its Care by Volvo subscription service, and achieved 4X higher conversion rates than standard campaigns.

Let’s drive

Peugeot: 33% increase in brand recall

Peugeot tested the Click-to-Watch native video ad, which plays only if the viewer actively opts in. Brand recall increased by a third, alongside a 20% increase in viewers who would recommend Peugeot SUVs.

Rev up the (native!) engine

Honda: Increased CTR by 273% compared to other channels

By using Max Conversions mode of Outbrain’s Conversion Bid Strategy (CBS), Honda automatically optimized campaign parameters to reach high-quality leads based on focused conversion-based KPIs.

Speed up with native

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