by Adam T. Sutton, Senior ReporterCHALLENGE
Cliff Mitchell, GM, Watson Quality Ford, and his team in the Mississippi-based car dealership, ran advertisements for years in four reliable marketing channels: local newspapers, television, radio and magazines.
Two years ago, the team began experimenting elsewhere after reading studies about consumers' online car shopping behavior.
"Some studies will show you that 86 percent of people who shop for a car [do so] online first," Mitchell says. "They may not contact you through digital media, but they're at least looking before they go."
After about a year of experimentation, Mitchell wasn't thrilled with static online display ads. Ads on local sites often proved overpriced for the response they generated. But Mitchell did not want to give up on the channel all together.
His team wanted to test an ad that would better grab attention and drive sales leads for the dealership. They wanted to show potential customers more than a logo and contact information -- they wanted show them their current inventory.CAMPAIGN
The team ran an interactive display ad which cycled through Watson Quality Ford's current used-car inventory. The ad incorporated movement to capture attention, showed video of specific cars and enabled visitors to reach out directly to the company.
Here are the steps the team followed:Step #1. Design the ad's appearance
The team used a 300x250 display ad (see creative samples below). The top third of the ad featured the dealership's logo, contact phone number and a button to visit the dealership website.
The bottom two-thirds of the ad featured a horizontal scrolling list of about a dozen vehicles selected from the team's used inventory. The list automatically scrolled, which helped capture visitors' attention. The list included:
o Vehicle image
In a small footer, the ad encouraged visitors to "Mouse Over to View Great Vehicles." When scrolled over, the list expanded into a larger view and also revealed a button which enabled viewers to sort the list by make and model.
- Vehicle details and video
After visitors clicked a vehicle's image, the ad revealed a details page for the specific vehicle. This change happened within the ad and did not require sending visitors to a different webpage. The details page included:
o Ad header: logo, button to visit website, contact phone number
o Car year, make, model, mileage and price
o Detailed list of features
o Vehicle video
o Footer buttons: contact dealer, send to a friend, map, more info
Vehicle videos were about 30 seconds long and featured images of the car, music and a narrator describing the cars' make, model and mileage; encouraging visitors to "contact us and come take a ride."
The footer buttons enabled visitors to complete the following actions:
o Contact dealer -- via contact form
o Send to a friend -- email the URL of the vehicle's details page
o Map -- directions to dealership
o More info -- link to vehicle's details page on dealership's websiteStep #2. Automatically populate and rotate inventory
The team designed the ad to operate automatically and integrated it with the dealership's used-vehicle inventory. The ad only showed vehicles which were available and cycled through the team's entire list of available used vehicles.
The team stored all of a vehicle's relevant information in the dealership's back-end inventory system. The information included the car's pictures, make, model, mileage, features and other details.
By integrating the ad with their inventory system, the ad platform automatically knew not to show a vehicle if it was sold. Also, the platform automatically retrieved the vehicles' images and specs to add to its listings. When Mitchell's team added a vehicle to the inventory system, the platform automatically considered it available for display.
- Match featured products to site audience
Even though the team had roughly an even split between the number of new and used cars it sold, the team only showed used inventory in the ad. Mitchell says this was due, partly, to the increase in demand for used cars in the down economy, and also to the elevated interest the team saw in used cars on its website.
"Someone's typically going to go to a manufacturer's website when they're looking for new cars," Mitchell says.Step #3. Automatically create video
Not only did the platform automatically pull product information into its design, it also automatically created the videos from the same information.
The 30-second spots cycled through 15 to 30 images of the car. The videos began with several exterior angles of the car and progressed into interior views. The images came from the team's inventory system.
The narrator is a natural sounding, computer-generated voice and says little more than the vehicle make, model and mileage; all of which is pulled from the team's inventory information. The only other video feature is its background music, which the platform chooses from a set of defaults.
After the video, thumbnails of the vehicle images are displayed for visitors to browse.
"There's not a lot of work for us to do," Mitchell says.Step #4. Show to a large local audience
Watson Quality Ford is a regional business in Jackson, Mississippi. The team needed this ad to reach a relevant, local audience without breaking the bank.
The team worked with a national cable and telecommunications service provider that was popular in the region. They were able to display the ad on the company's consumer homepage, which was customized on a regional basis, meaning visitors in the Jackson-area would see a different page than visitors in New York.
The team purchased impressions on a monthly basis. Even though they were running a dynamic ad, which expanded and played video, they were able to secure a price below that of advertising on other local websites that only offered static display placements.
"This was less expensive by a good bit," Mitchell says.
"We have an Internet department that handles all the leads coming through our online marketing and hands them off to our managers and sales people...Over the last three months, we've had a 12 percent increase in sales just through that department," Mitchell says.
The team started running the ads in March. Here are the results for the ads' April campaign:
o Expansion rate: 25.6%
o Clickthrough rate: .13% (96% of clickthroughs to website, 4% to listing page)
o Average interaction time: 12.32 seconds
o Total interaction time: 95 hours, 48 minutes
o Average video play time: 22.74 seconds
o Total video play time: 50 minutes, 24 seconds
The only other change the team made during the same period, Mitchell says, was to participate in a system which ensured regionally competitive pricing. While that may have helped results, most of the sale increase was due to the ads, Mitchell says.Useful links related to this article
1. Ad on website
2. Ad expanded
3. Ad video view
Members Library -- Mobile Video Marketing: 4 Tactics to Get Started
Members Library -- Interactive Video Ad Campaigns: 5 Tips to Use Enhanced Functionality to Improve ResponseLiquidus BannerLink
: Designed the team's ad and provided the platformComcast
: Hosted the team's adWatson Quality Ford