Car Spots Drive Awareness, Other Media Make Sales

When it comes to selling cars, television still drives more awareness than other media, but those other media can be key to closing the deal, according to a new report from Nielsen.

In its 2018 Auto Marketing report, Nielsen concludes that auto marketing requires an understanding of how different media channels should be leverage along the path to purchase.

When a consumer is not yet in the market for a new car, mass reach media like radio and TV should be employed for brand building, the report says. As decision nears, marketers need to transition to more targeted and personalizable media including mobile, digital and direct mail to increase purchase consideration and dealership foot traffic.

Related: Nielsen Creates Auto Cloud in Deal with J.D. Power

The stakes are high in the auto market, Nielsen notes. The industry spends $35 billion in marketing in the U.S. And though sales have slowed down automotive remains one of the top spending categories nationally and by far the top spender on local media.

Consumer by new cars every six to seven years on average, During that time, they are exposed to thousands of ads.

That exposure helps to create a bias that favors big brands that Nielsen calls defender brands.

“It turns out that not all brand awareness was created equal. Quality is significantly more important than quantity. Seventy-five percent of all car buyers reported that they intend to purchase their top of mind brand, which as the name suggests, is the highest quality unaided awareness a brand can achieve. It has a serious edge over all others before the consumer ever sets foot inside a dealership,” according to the report.

“Consumers with unaided brand awareness account for only 23% of total awareness, yet generate 60% of all purchase consideration and 90% of purchase intent. In fact, shoppers with unaided awareness have 10 times the purchase intent as those with aided awareness. Quality really is more important than quantity when it comes to automotive brand building. “

Nielsen says that while TV drives the most recall, TV recall drops 18% after a person begins seriously searching for a car.

Digital, mobile, direct mail and in-theater advertising all see big increases in ad recall during the same search period. In-theater advertising sees the biggest jump in ad recall at 258%, followed by mobile at 217%, direct mail at 135% and digital at 99%.

Defender brands have four to five times the unaided awareness, which carries over to three to four times the purchase consideration. “Throughout the path to purchase, defenders are more likely to make a car buyer’s shortlist than the lesser-known challengers,” the report said.

But breaking the cycle is not impossible. Purchase consideration for increases as purchase time nears and younger car buyers are more open minded shoppers, making them prime targets for challengers.

Nielsen sees a distinction between older and younger car shoppers.

“Older car shoppers are more readily reached via traditional, broad reach media like TV, radio and print. They are more likely to be loyal to the brands they’ve used before, and your marketing dollars and messages should be used to reinforce that bond,” the report said.

“Younger car shoppers are more malleable: they’re not yet set in their ways and are more willing to consider your brand, but if you’re not their brand of choice at the outset, you need to find a way to reach them on the media they consume the most, which is largely digital,” it said.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.