Behavioral Targeting to Fuel Automotive Campaigns

When initially asked to write a column on behavioral targeting, I thought, “No problem. I have an automotive account, and we do lots of behavioral targeting.” That’s before I really thought about it. Truth is, we talk a lot about behavioral targeting, and we agree it has the potential to be a great strategy for reaching in-market buyers. Yet I was hard-pressed to find some solid case studies on it.

When I spoke with industry colleagues, most stated behavioral targeting happened by accident instead of intentionally. They needed to make good on an under-delivery, so they agreed to move the inventory to behavioral-targeted placements and expand their reach on an automotive network. Or, it was the only way to purchase inventory on a site that had sold out of content-targeted sections. There were cases when colleagues set out to do behavioral targeting, but then budget, creative, and timing made them realize the campaign wouldn’t meet their objectives.

In 2006, behavioral targeting will play a stronger role in automotive planning, particularly as it relates to the automotive upfront. The upfront is the process in which automotive advertisers secure inventory on automotive-related sites six months to a year in advance. The objective is for manufacturers to secure advertising on their own model pages so a competitor can’t purchase them. Any inventory that’s not secured during the upfront planning cycle becomes available to competitive advertisers.

Although, upfront budgets constitute a large percentage of an automotive advertiser’s interactive budget, automotive sites have hit a plateau. According to Revenue Science, automotive sites experienced visitor growth was slightly lower than the total Internet average in May 2005, while visitors to manufacturer sites increased 23 percent over the prior year. For continued growth, therefore, automotive sites must find opportunities for expansion. Behavioral targeting provides just this opportunity.

Properties such as Yahoo Autos and have submitted behavioral targeting as part of the upfront, and several manufacturers have bought it, citing expanded reach (outside the automotive channel) and conquering competitors’ pages as the top two reasons. Yahoo’s rationale is it makes sense to reach in-market shoppers outside of Yahoo Autos because that’s where 87 percent of automotive shoppers live.

A benefit of using behavioral targeting with automotive properties like Yahoo Autos and is they’re often components of larger entities, such as the Yahoo and Tribune networks. Therefore, even though average shoppers may frequent Yahoo Autos or once or twice while they’re in-market, they’ll frequent the Yahoo or Tribune network regularly.

Because demand has surpassed supply, this is another way for properties to make money outside their automotive channel. They present behavioral targeting not only as an option for the upfront but also as a way to capture overall offline dollars, as this is clearly something that can’t be offered in the offline world. They lure advertisers with strong metrics. Dynamic Logic automotive studies that show a 246 percent lift in purchase intent and 53 percent in brand favorability for behavioral-targeted campaigns.

Other automotive networks, such as Jumpstart Automotive Media group, which includes NADA Guides,, Consumer Guide Automotive,, and J.D. Power, have recently joined the bandwagon by partnering with Revenue Science. They collect consumer-automotive shopping information, including automotive type, make, and model interest, while the consumer is within any of Jumpstart’s automotive channels. Then, through a partnership with and ValueClick, they’ll target consumers by category or model interest on non-endemic sites.

Jumpstart said it launched the offering based on advertisers requesting the following:

  • How can I reach an in-market audience more frequently during the short window that they’re in-market?
  • How can I win over a specific competitive set when competitive-model inventory isn’t available?

Conducted properly, behavioral targeting has a lot of potential. Marketers must use a holistic campaign approach with appropriate frequency, creative, and metrics. If the plan is to repurpose retention or creative to behavioral targeting, the results will be dismal. If the plan is to run the same creative at a high frequency, results will be consistent with that of a tuned-out consumer.

One way to effectively utilize automotive behavioral targeting is to overlay it with geotargeting by providing a local-financing option. Alternately, sequence creative to highlight different features.

Planners must also be cognizant of when consumers are out of market. Once they’ve purchased their cars, the last thing they want to see is a reminder of that purchase cycle. Therefore, stay abreast of what consumers do after they see the ad. Do they click? Do they visit the advertised site? Do they ask to be contacted by a local dealer?

Gone are the days of serving the same message at a high frequency and hoping for the best. Today’s consumers are savvy. They want to know you’re paying attention to them for reasons that will benefit them.

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