How Auto Dealers Are Using Digital Advertising


For most radio clusters, automotive is a top ad category. But the past few years have seen auto dealers moving money out of radio and into digital advertising options. Here’s an overview of the top digital advertising products automotive dealers are using, so you can have a better understanding of how they work — and how to find ways to integrate them into your radio ad mix.

First, there are automotive-buyer ad networks that target automotive websites with either display or video ads. Dealers use these to stay top-of-mind as people are beginning to think about a car purchase, while the consumer is still at the top of the “sales funnel” process.

Keyword and contextual targeting work by targeting people as they are searching keywords related to specific types of vehicles or reading articles that contain those keywords. They are used to reach people who have begun to research information about vehicles.

Behavioral targeting reaches people who have already shown an interest and are known to be in the market for a new vehicle. These are folks that are further down the sales funnel and starting to make choices.

Household IP targeting is one-to-one advertising, where a dealership is able to target specific households from a list the dealership may have (i.e., people whose leases are expiring) or a list it may have purchased (i.e., owners of cars that are 5 years old or older). Dealers like this type of digital product because they can easily track names of those who have purchased against the people on the household IP targeting list.

Facebook and Instagram newsfeed ads are “native advertising” that reaches people as they scroll through their accounts’ newsfeeds and status updates. There are many different types of Facebook ads now, including carousel ads, local awareness ads with click-to-call or click-to-map buttons, and Facebook’s lead ads, which are used for offering online quotes or signing people up for a test drive. In addition, a dealer can do custom audience matching and run ads only to the people who are on a list they want to target — and can extend that by asking Facebook to develop a “lookalike” audience that most closely matches their own list.

Mobile location-based targeting (also called mobile conquesting) is probably the hottest thing right now in digital advertising for dealers: It means reaching consumers who are in the market for a vehicle (“auto intenders”) and who are within a certain distance from a dealership’s location. Ads can be dynamically updated to show the consumer how far they are from the dealership, while expandable ads can offer several call-to-action buttons.

A dealer can also “geo-conquest” around competing dealerships’ lots and target ads to people only when they are on another dealer’s lot. This is a big deal because, according to research by and Placed, Inc., 63 percent of auto shoppers researched and shopped online while at a dealership.

Retargeting helps a dealership continue to target people who have already been to the dealership’s website and remind them why they should come back.

If you’re not already offering these products to your automotive dealerships in addition to your radio campaigns, you should consider doing so. Many dealerships are time-strapped and want to work with as few media companies as possible. If you can be more of a “one-stop shop” for radio alongside a full suite of digital products, you are more likely to stand out from your competitors.

If you feel you can’t offer all the digital products described above, you should at least look into retargeting and a mobile advertising option. Many car manufacturers have set guidelines that require their dealerships to allocate a certain amount of their advertising spend in digital mobile ads.

Now that you know more about these digital marketing products, you can position your radio demographics and options to complement them. Radio is still one of the best mediums to broadcast a message far and wide —it’s the megaphone. Digital can be used in conjunction to complement that message and provide the frequency and specific targeting to drive the conversions dealers want: moving metal!

Leslye Schumacher is founding partner of Vici Media and can be reached at 502.414.1499 or [email protected]


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