Car Brands Are Starting to Get the Marketing Data They've Always Wanted

Digital ad targeting and auto designs are better for it

Chrysler is but one example of auto brands pushing programmatic forward.

The car industry isn't slowing down when it comes to employing more data for everything from vehicle malfunctions to marketing.

In fact, in terms of digital advertising, the category looks like it's putting the pedal to the metal, as tech vendors, publishers and other players increasingly roll out new offerings to attract automotive ad buyers who are demanding better results. 

For instance, data cloud company eXelate today is debuting measurement software that's designed to exhibit when digital promos produce actual car sales, giving an auto advertiser a clearer sense of return on investment. It generally affords a long view of what marketers call the "purchase funnel," while allowing them to both review a campaign's performance and quickly tweak how the effort targets consumers. 

The system looks at how car shoppers visit automotive websites, compare makes and models, and browse articles about new vehicles. It then follows the shoppers as they visit dealer sites and request price quotes, which shows they've moved from "purchase consideration" to "purchase intent." Finally, the software pulls in dealer sales data—thanks to a partnership with J.D. Power—to measure how transactions were completed offline. These streams of data are the lifeblood of a program that aims to help brand marketers serve the right kinds of ads, while offering post-campaign analysis as well.

The eXelate-J.D. Power tandem effort has similarities to the offline-online aims of Facebook and Datalogix in recent years. Connecting digital impressions with real-world shopping is essentially the Holy Grail for ad-selling publishers and platforms, which want to woo more brands that belong to the consumer-packaged goods, pharmaceutical, fast food and, yes, automotive sectors.  

Arianne Walker, senior director of media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power, commented that the companies "are able to provide the industry with information to make well-informed online marketing decisions that actually help sell cars."

Where does all of that purchase funnel data come from? eXelate has struck deals with various undisclosed automotive Internet destinations and other websites to accrue click data and zero in on consumers who are actively shopping for certain models and makes. The company's software can help marketers decide whether to slightly alter, overhaul or completely scrap digital initiatives—if they are not going swimmingly—just a few days after launch. Compared with waiting for sales reports several weeks after running an ad—which has been historically the case—this program, in theory, is built to be an accurate, real-time gauge.

"There has not been enough information to know if a campaign is working," remarked eXelate global strategy chief Damian Garbaccio. "You'd simply find out if there's a sales lift [months later]." and, both part of Internet Brands' publishing group, have used eXelate's program in recent weeks, and the sites claim they've generated 14 times more vehicle sales compared with their benchmarks. Neither Internet Brands nor eXelate would disclose what carmakers have been evidently benefiting so greatly from the system. 

"You can find out if one creative is working really great or if it's working particularly well in a geographical region," Garbaccio said. "And then you double down on that."

Chrysler Utilizes Data to Target Video Ads in a New Fashion

The eXelate-Internet Brands development underscores how car marketing is becoming more sophisticated with data vendors' latest wares.

Last month, Innovid and Chrysler gave a presentation at CES that showed how the car brand will start targeting video ads in the near future while leaning on what interest-level audience segment a consumer belongs to. The mobile-centric data system works for either online videos or streaming programming—from a Hulu or a TV Everywhere—through devices like Roku. In a programmatic fashion, it will allow Chrysler to buy video inventory from publisher networks and then serve up creative to consumers based on what specific kind of vehicle (economy car, pickup, SUV, etc.) their online behavior suggests they might buy.

In an email, Innovid chief technology officer Tal Chalozin described the system as a "fairly complicated cluster algorithm [that] constantly collects data for a given device so that it may serve unified and consistent content to a single household. Once user preferences are established, additional brand content (example: YouTube video on safety standards, special features, etc.) can be served to further entice and educate that end consumer. Ads are localized so that users may be directed to the Chrysler dealership closest to them."

Detroit-based Chrysler wasn't available for comment.

What's more, Innovid is working with a big box retailer in an intriguing manner. The New York-based tech company is helping the electronics-focused chain deliver the same first 20 to 25 seconds of a 30-second spot to all viewers before seamlessly transitioning into footage for a specific product (e.g., an iPhone or Xbox) that the consumer has shown an interest in while browsing on a smartphone or tablet. According to Innovid, its retail client has seen its video engagement rate rise from 1 percent to 3.7 percent because of the automated, creative-minded program. 

Innovid leverages a data deal with the aforementioned eXelate to enable such targeting.

Lastly, Chrysler competitor General Motors has more and more been using data to improve its actual vehicles. GM keeps an eye out for recurring complaints in social media about features; but unlike most, the carmaker will troubleshoot and make alterations at its factory in short order.

It's not paid advertising on-the-fly like Internet Brands' clients and Chrysler, but General Motors' Adobe-powered system is part customer care and part word-of-mouth marketing in real time. And GM's endeavor underscores how reams of data are increasingly at practitioners' fingertips from the Motor City to Bangkok

"We are becoming more precise," Whitney Drake, GM's lead for social media care, recently told Adweek. "We can resolve [issues] really quickly instead of waiting for a survey to come back."

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