Driving Mobile Advertising for Automotive Brands

Making a purchase is an information game, particularly when it comes to buying a car: mobile is increasingly used by consumers to gain information before making a purchase. Advertising is one means by which consumers collect information about their intended purchases.

Automotive marketers, here’s a question for you: how do you bring a car to a consumer through advertising? You can show them pictures of the exterior and interior. You can have a short list of specifications that make the car best of breed. You can even put up a brand logo and let the brand name speak for the car. But how much does the tried-and-tested method of advertising work in driving awareness of your new series or even sales to your cars? In the increasingly digital landscape that we’re in today, mobile advertising gives automotive brands the potential to do all of this and more, particularly in Malaysia, where Proton and Perodua have dominated the market for years.

The key challenge to advertising for automotive brands is that the pedigree of the car – the brand – tends to speak for the car itself. However, when it comes to mid-range cars, the pedigree is less important than what the consumer wants out of the car. Understandably, there are a significant number of factors in buying a car, ranging from the budget of the consumer, to the required specifications that the consumer needs. Effective marketing for automotive brands means bringing the car to the user. Mobile advertising allows users to engage with the brand while being able to get access to the information they want about automotive brands and products.

Based on a series of mobile campaigns for automotive brands such as BMW and Volkswagen in Malaysia over the last year, the key idea behind these campaigns was to bring the car, in a figurative sense, to the user over mobile, where audiences would be able to engage with the ad through an interactive mobile website, or mobi-site. The strength of mobile lies in its ability to get close to users: in addition to the SMS format of mobile advertising, using an integrated approach to mobile outreach can help get the word out for automotive brands by boosting impressions and raising awareness of brands and their newest offerings.

Across the objectives of these mobile campaigns, ranging from raising brand and product awareness to encouraging test drives, the element of engagement through an interactive mobi-site allows audiences to browse car specifications on the mobi-site as well as allow them to download wallpapers, sign up for a test drive, and even provide promotions relevant to users who already own a car of that brand. In addition to the mobi-site, we created mobile banner ads that also boost engagement by opening up the ads to a wider audience.

Another key challenge to advertising for automotive brands is finding the target audience. Mid-range automotive brands in general do not typically have a loyal customer base. Consequently, automotive brands play a role in helping the consumer decide what options are available to them.

In Malaysia, where the national car brands remain the top two best selling cars in the market, brands like Volkswagen use mobile advertising to engage potential customers on a personal level. Combining mobile ad formats such as targeted SMS and banner display ads allows brands to reach interested, opt-in users as well as “passerby” audiences who happen to see the mobile ads and become interested in the product after engaging with the mobi-site.

In a campaign that we ran for Volkswagen in April, aimed at raising awareness of the Volkswagen Golf MK7 and encouraging potential customers to sign up for a test drive, the campaign target audience received an SMS asking what mattered to them in a car. The initial message created a dialogue with the audience, to which they responded with one of three options – design, comfort, or performance – and received a second message containing a link to a mobi-site.

Average response rate to the initial message of this campaign was 8 percent, which is four times the average response rate to similar SMS campaigns. The high response rate is in partly due to optimized targeting: as recipients over the age of 30 were identified as the primary target audience, it is clear from Table 1 (shown below) that the response rates for age groups above 30 are significantly higher than audiences under 30, for this particular campaign.

Table 1: Breakdown by Age Group of Response Rates for Volkswagen Golf MK7 Mobile Campaign

The mobi-site and display banner mechanics for the Volkswagen Golf MK7 campaign similarly showed significant traction among audiences, with the mobi-site landing page receiving over 24,000 unique visits and the banner ads receiving 6.37 million impressions.

Mobile advertising for automotive brands is ultimately an information game. Consumers are interested in the information that is available about the products, which applies to the ads themselves as well as the events, showcases, or for a test drive. Whether through SMS, MMS, a display ad on a smartphone or through a mobi-site, advertising for automotive brands – and indeed, for all brands – is a critical tool in getting the consumer to engage with brands and products in a way that may not be easily accomplished for other reasons.

In Malaysia, mobile advertising gives brands an edge, as it brings the information that consumers need to jumpstart their decision-making process to the consumer, be it at that time or further down the line when they seek to purchase a new car, which is what mobile advertising is all about. It’s about bringing brands to the users.

This is a guest post by Gerald Smith, managing director, Asia Pacific at Out There Media.

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