Marketing pioneer John Wanamaker is credited with saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Today, through the art and science of audience planning and targeting, it is possible to identify which audiences will reduce potential waste and help you meet your advertising goals. As automotive sales flatten, it is critical to reduce waste by focusing your advertising dollars.
When it comes to dealership retail advertising dollars, we’re talking about sizable budgets. According to Borrell Associates, franchised automotive dealers are spending more than $8B per year in digital advertising. Leveraging the art and science in audience planning to target appropriately ensures you spend those dollars getting in front of the right audiences at the right time to help you sell cars.
Specifically, great science accurately identifies online audiences objectively to ensure that you are reaching who you think you are targeting. The science also allows the industry to validate those audiences against actual vehicle sales to go beyond online actions to find real car buyers. But science alone isn’t enough—it’s important to add art, too. The art comes in multiple forms beyond the creative itself. When it comes to audience planning, leveraging the knowledge and experience of great partners to use that science appropriately—to get those ads in front of the right audience at the right scale—is invaluable. Let’s examine how this plays out with a real-life case study.
“Ultimately, by combining both the art and science of audience targeting, your campaigns will be successful in reaching the right audiences to reduce waste and help sell more vehicles.”
The plan: A Facebook campaign that reaches buyers
A large dealer group was initiating a Facebook campaign and wanted to be sure their ads were getting in front of the right audience for in-dealership awareness and sales to minimize waste. They needed the campaign to reach in-market buyers of their brand’s target vehicles on Facebook. Through careful validation of the different potential audiences, utilizing identity science and machine learning algorithms (the science best left to the experts), the following three audiences were identified as the best opportunity to reach the most qualified audience at scale:
- Retargeting of dealership website visitors
- In-market audiences powered by Polk data (IHS Markit)
- Incremental Facebook lookalike audiences built from website visitors
By utilizing these three audiences, it was possible to gain scale into a qualified, in-market audience, while maintaining high quality for this campaign. Specifically, they reached shoppers already showing interest in their dealerships through online activity (i.e., website visitation). This also included additional in-market audiences based on vehicle purchase history (using Polk audiences) and maintained additional high-quality audiences for lookalikes (through Facebook).
During the campaign, Facebook’s dynamic ads were served to those in-market shoppers primarily sourced from VDPs (vehicle detail pages), showcasing vehicles on dealership lots. This happened through an integration with Facebook’s marketing application. The dealership’s inventory photos were dynamically pulled into the ads displayed to the three groups of target audiences during the six-week campaign—designed to focus on awareness at scale as well as in-dealership sales.
The results: The art and science of audience targeting really performs
The campaign launched with these three target audiences. Over the 60 days, more than 5.5K buyers of the target brands were reached, including more than 500 vehicles at the five dealerships involved in the campaign. And there were other noteworthy findings:
- Those retargeted from the dealership’s website were 22x more likely to purchase vs. in-market shoppers
- Those reached by the in-market audiences were 2x as likely to buy the target vehicle vs. unexposed in-market shoppers
- Facebook’s incremental lookalike audiences were 1.5x as likely to purchase as in-market shoppers
Each of these results alone could be considered successful from a “scientific” perspective—that is, the data showed a positive outcome based on what one might expect for each type of audience. However, the real success was in how collectively targeting all three audiences truly provided a home-run campaign execution. The retargeting certainly delivered an incredibly qualified audience, although at limited scale. Expanding beyond the retargeting with the two additional audiences drove the optimal mix of scaled targeting. By identifying great audiences from multiple sources, they served ads to the best possible prospects at scale, resulting in automotive sales.
What’s more, the large dealer group found success by looking at this execution all the way through to the sale. This campaign delivered on seeing proof of the un-wasted advertising (remember Wanamaker’s assertion) because it reached the right audience to help move metal off the lot.
Where do we go from here?
There are opportunities to increase a campaign’s success further by suppressing the overlap to grow reach and layer in additional geo-location data for an even more targeted approach.
In fact, all dealer digital advertising can leverage the great resources currently available to reach the right audiences. To ensure you’re doing the best job with your audience planning and targeting, make sure your partners:
- Integrate across the media landscape
- Provide sufficient scale in their audience offerings
- Bring together great science to eliminate waste
- Exhibit proficiency with layering in the art to create a comprehensive program to meet your campaign goals.
Ultimately, by combining both the art and science of audience targeting, your campaigns will be successful in reaching the right audiences to reduce waste and help sell more vehicles.
Author: Arianne Walker
Arianne Walker leads automotive brand strategy at Oracle Data Cloud. As a thought leader and market voice, she helps automotive marketers discover and implement the best possible audience strategies and delivers data, insights and perspective on broader auto industry initiatives that impact and influence the marketing and advertising strategies of automotive marketers. Prior to joining Oracle, Arianne worked with J.D. Power for over 12 years, providing direction on current and future trends in digital automotive marketing. Arianne received her BS degree in anthropology and her MA and PhD in Education and Organizational Change from UCLA.