2023 Presents Challenges for Auto Dealers. The Right Ad Placement is Key, but the Magic Is In the Message.
Auto dealers across the nation enjoyed record numbers in front-end gross throughout 2022 despite lacking inventory. With supply chain disruptions becoming less severe, many are beginning to see inventory levels that are similar to what they had pre-pandemic. Higher inventory levels point to higher sales volume, but 2023 still presents challenges. Curious about what’s to come? We are, too. Read on to find out how dealers can stay ahead of the game as we enter the busy season and move beyond.
Toyota expects to exceed pre-pandemic production levels in 2023, forecasting an output of 10.6 million units. According to the manufacturer, there are still risks that can result in a 10% deficit to that forecast. Even so, the total units produced would still exceed 2019 numbers. This is just one example of 2023’s inventory uptick, and the news comes just in time for auto’s busiest season.
March, April and May account for the auto industry’s highest sales volume annually (nearly 30% collectively). Ideally, dealers should plan to have their advertising messages strategically crafted and in place well before consumers are in the buying phase. The most successful dealers utilize awareness tactics like local sports team sponsorships and brand-focused ads year-round. With that being said, the market remains hot throughout the summer months and it’s not too late to build a solid advertising foundation for the rest of the year.
What does it take to make “good” creative for auto dealers? What’s going to motivate consumers to buy from your dealership? In previous years, competitive pricing at the dealership level has led the conversation when it comes to their creative. (Think: Papa Flair’s Used Cars in U.S. Auto Sales’ 2017 campaign.)
According to Gary Sheets, a manager at Sheets Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in southern West Virginia, increasing interest rates may be the “biggest deterrent” to growing sales in 2023. He believes that manufacturers will take action to bolster sales volume. “[They] will most likely increase rebates or promote more incentivized rates, or combine the two,” he says.
With that in mind: How can you motivate potential customers in the market to become your customers? It’s important to communicate with consumers in every step of their individual journeys. Keep in mind that anyone can advertise “price,” and discounted prices can ultimately lead to diminished value. In this article, we’ll outline a simple advertising strategy to help dealerships increase awareness, maintain an optimum frequency and generate more sales.
The first step is to start building relationships with consumers before they start shopping. This is where upper funnel “awareness” messages come in handy. Think about it this way: What if all the leads you received were warm leads? They would be easier to convert. They already have your business in mind when it’s time for them to purchase. Cable advertising is very effective placement for this type of messaging because it offers broad coverage, but it’s still customizable enough to reach a defined audience.
Next, adding streaming products such as FAST (Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV), premium video and online video can supplement a dealership’s awareness messaging, as well as reach consumers who are in the middle of the funnel or the “consideration” phase. This is an especially important phase for big-ticket purchases such as automobiles, as consumers tend to do a lot of online research before making a decision. Buyers are more educated than ever before. To this point, salespeople and F&I professionals at dealerships need to be very knowledgeable and confident about demonstrating their products and explaining options.
Finally, dealers can use digital tactics that involve following consumers’ behaviors to reach them near the end of their journey (at the bottom of the funnel), as they’re making purchasing decisions. Ads served to mobile devices and tactics that allow for targeting in-market customers can be very effective in helping win more business for a dealership.
a4 offers customized multiscreen media plans that cover all parts of the marketing funnel, from awareness-generating placements on your customers’ favorite TV shows to online video and other digital tactics that are served to them based on their shopping behavior.
With all areas of the marketing funnel covered, from “awareness” to “consideration” to “decision-making,” the right message or theme makes all the difference. Once again, why should consumers trust your dealership with their business? This is one of the largest purchase decisions many consumers will ever make. When crafting your unique message, focus on “Why buy?” messages and communicate what sets your dealership apart. Sell the experience and the value.
Auto customers want to feel valued. What can a customer get from your dealership that they can’t get anywhere else in the market? Maybe it’s a vehicle service contract (aka a “Lifetime Warranty,” but be careful with terminology here) that offers powertrain coverage for as long as they own the vehicle. Or, it could simply be a transparent, easy and haggle-free buying experience. Above all, remember that the most important and valuable asset a dealership has in any form of advertising is its good name.
If you have questions about the correct verbiage to use when referring to “warranties” or “vehicle service contracts,” please note the differences between the two and check out the Federal Trade Commission’s FAQs for automotive advertising here.

By Jennifer Fritz, originally published on MediaVillage

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