A Hot Bowl of Auto Advertising

Good news for automotive manufacturers: all that money you’ve been investing in your brand site is starting to pay off.

According to the most recent “Autoshopper.com Study” from J.D. Power and Associates, new vehicle shoppers rely more on manufacturer and dealer Web sites than ever before. A record 87 percent of automotive Internet users now visit at least one manufacturer site during the auto research process, compared with 77 percent who visit an independent third-party research property (reduced from 80 percent in 2004).

This trend shouldn’t suggest third-party sites are doing something wrong, but that automotive information online and the different types of sites that offer it are getting even more advanced and competitive. Even with traffic to third-party sites slightly down, automotive media buyers can attest to the importance of destinations like AutoTrader.com and Autobytel. The in-market car buyers these sites provide access to are a desirable lot, well before they even get to one.

This is equally true of used car buyers, particularly for automotive dealerships. And because used car sales tend to be more locally driven, sites with a strong local presence can offer a lot.

Lesser-known (at least in some circles) online automotive marketplace CarSoup.com is one such site. CarSoup has been delivering both used and new vehicle listings and related data to consumers since 1998, along with banner ads intended specifically for dealerships and manufacturers.

What makes CarSoup different is the way it gathers and presents its information. Instead of operating independently, like Vehix.com, or partnering with newspaper groups to source automotive classified listings, like Cars.com, CarSoup works with TV stations, like WOAI in San Antonio, TX.

Visit the Clear Channel Television-owned TV site, click on “Find a Car – CarSoup,” and you’ll see what I mean. Site visitors get a cobranded CarSoup/WOAI portal created specifically for the local station. Together, the local CarSoup sites make up a national network that automotive advertisers can employ to promote their inventory and brands.

Dealers can post banners for local customers to see, while manufacturers can market themselves for the benefit of the site’s new car shoppers and support their local dealerships — which pay to have their used vehicle inventory featured on the site — with brand-specific display ads.

“We offer a whole digital pallet and a host of ways to use the information we gather through local TV station sites to execute multiple advertising solutions,” says Larry Cuneo, founder and president of CarSoup.com.

Banners on CarSoup are sold on a CPM (define) basis and can be targeted nationally or by local DMA (define). Traffic can be calculated by local market as well. In Minneapolis where the site was founded, for example, the local CarSoup site reaches nearly 15 percent of TV households and attracts over 200,000 unique visitors on a monthly basis. Pageviews hover around 16 million per month.

As the Web gets broader and deeper, the trend among consumers is decidedly toward local information. That includes the news, traffic, weather, even classified advertising that’s provided by local TV stations. This is the content that’s most relevant to and effective in their lives. Because of that, they’re more likely to respond to it.

These days, media buyers — automotive and otherwise — have to think globally but act locally. CarSoup is good place to start.

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