Agency offers up new optimization tool as auto advertisers seek the right balance of spend

Auto advertising, long a mainstay of national and local media — particularly in the TV space but growing its digital impact — continues to slow down ad spend. This is happening for a number of reasons, but mainly because there just aren’t as many new cars to sell, and there’s even a scarcity of used cars to buy. So any new technology or tool to optimize ad spend that automakers and dealers can use to move cars off the sales lot is pretty much welcome. One digital agency believes it’s developed just that.

THE LOWDOWN ON KUDOS

Identifies target audiences in real time using in-market data, demographics, psychographics; Places hyper-targeted ads using combination of digital channels; Anonymously tracks consumers to show conversions; The goal: Track the circuitous consumer journey in a timely fashion, provide competitor and industry-level benchmarking in a shorter timeframe.

Manufacturers and dealers are shifting more of their dollars into digital executions from enhanced websites to bolder search efforts , with monies coming largely from print or radio ad budgets. But even TV advertising isn’t totally safe, as some TV networks saw up to 20 percent drops in auto money during the recently concluded upfront marketplace. 

But it’s not all bad news: Borrell Associates, an ad and market research firm that specializes in local media, predicts local auto dealer advertising will grow just under 9 percent in 2022 to $9.4 billion. And yet, dealers, according to Borrell, spent $38 billion in 2021 — or 4.5 times what they spend on advertising — to maintain their online presence through SEO, web maintenance and hosting, online video production, social media management, and other digital marketing services. 

That kind of digital complexity begs for answers as to what works best. And that’s exactly why Max Connect, a digital agency that specializes in auto advertising, has formally unveiled Kudos, its marketing attribution insights platform. Though it can be used for any number of Max Connect clients, it’s worked well for automakers given their current challenges. 

In short, Kudos identifies target audiences based on real-time in-market data, demographics and psychographics and then places hyper-targeted ads using a combination of digital channels. It then tracks those consumers anonymously to show conversions.

“We’ve learned that the consumer journey is much more circuitous than circular, and it’s just messy,” said Phil Case, president and chief client officer at Salt Lake City-based Max Connect. “You start to visualize things in a different way…because we’re humanizing the consumers that you’re targeting. And we’re able to have much more rich data kind of behind that.”

You start to visualize things in a different way…because we’re humanizing the consumers that you’re targeting.
Phil Case, president and chief client officer, Max Connect

Case said the Kudos platform was built in-house by an internal marketing technology team. Though it’s been tested with clients for more than a year, the platform is being unveiled now to a broader community beyond car advertisers. Its purpose is to help track the consumer journey in a more timely fashion, while enabling some degree of understanding actions the consumer took, from website activity to form submissions, phone calls, vehicle detail page searches, etc. 

Kudos also provides competitor and industry-level benchmarking in a much shorter timeframe than most dealers are used to, which helped Travis Johnson, general manager of six Larry H Miller car dealerships across Utah. 

“All the data and all the information that I’ve been getting, it’s just too late — I’ve been harping on that for years,” said Johnson. “I need to be able to effectively hold my advertising agencies accountable, I need real time information. Now [using Kudos] I’ve got it down to a five-to-seven day window. I can log in and go through the data to find out where we’re leaking or what I may be missing. And then I can hold my sales associates, my management accountable.”

Johnson explained that Kudos convinced him to shift money from direct mail, TV and radio to a more digitally-focused execution, with radio cut out altogether and less spending in TV or mail. Regardless of where he’s spending, Johnson said he believes now is the time to boost advertising, not cut back. 

“You have a ton of consumers trying to do something and they can’t facilitate their car shopping needs,” he said. “Because new car facilities don’t have the vehicle that they’re looking for, or they’re way overpriced. Used car facilities don’t have exactly what they’re looking for either, but they’re still out there doing something.”

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