Jul 5 2023
Clare McKinley

3 Questions with an Automotive Advertising Expert


The automotive sector was forced to slam on the breaks back in 2020, when a semiconductor shortage brought some serious roadblocks that’ve had lasting effects on the industry (OK, OK, we’ll pump the brakes on the car puns!) Shortages of some chips may continue through this year and next, but the situation has significantly improved, with global car production up by 3% year-over-year.

Still, the semiconductor shortage isn’t the only development driving change in the industry—there are plenty of other trends for auto advertisers to keep up with. To get a pulse on what automotive advertisers can do to adapt to these changes and thrive in this moment, we met with Jim Zabel, Basis Technologies’ VP of Brand and Agency Development – Auto—an auto marketing veteran who has worked on both the brand and agency side during his 25-year career, contributing to brands like Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, and Volkswagen.

Read on for Jim's top insights for auto marketing in 2023:

Basis Technologies: What are the biggest opportunities in auto right now?

Jim Zabel: The first one is expanding your marketing spend beyond search and social. Investing in those channels is still a wise choice, and for most automotive brands, they make up a majority of digital media spend. But marketers need to take a look at when they start to see diminishing returns. I don’t see automotive clients leveraging programmatic as much as they could, so that’s an opportunity to leverage that tactic more effectively.

Another big one is the use of first-party data and audience modeling. Obviously, this is a big deal as we face the prospect of losing third-party cookies in Chrome next year, plus there’s a clear consumer sentiment for more privacy-friendly advertising practices. But even beyond that, a first-party audience is typically going to be your highest-performing audience, and there are a lot of new tools and tech that allow marketers to better collect and extend their first-party data.

Finally, there are some new and exciting attribution capabilities that auto advertisers should be taking advantage of whenever they can. Take Basis Technologies’ partnership with Polk Automotive as an example: Polk provides audiences to Basis users through LiveRamp IDs, and we can then target those audiences with our Basis ad ID. Then, based on the exposed audiences, we can match back actual sales and vehicle registrations to the individuals we targeted and gain learnings on what ads and channels are resonating with specific audience segments. Overall, attribution is a great space to keep an eye on, because there are a lot of new capabilities that you can take advantage of.

BT: What’s one of the biggest things you’ve learned about effective auto advertising over the course of your career?

JZ: One of the biggest things I’ve seen proven out time and time again is that brand awareness raises all lower funnel metrics. There's really no substitute for telling your story, and telling it well. Marketers should keep investing in content that details their brand and product stories and crafting those stories based on the pain points and aspirations of their target audiences. Tapping into the automation, efficiency, and targeting offered by programmatic is a great way to ensure you’re then activating the right channels and reaching high value consumers to make sure that those messages reach the right people at the right time.

BT: What’s the hottest thing in auto right now?

JZ: One of the biggest things that comes to mind is automotive market intelligence. Data that helps dealers acquire vehicles, price, and manage their inventory has been around for well over a decade. To date, dealers have used these solutions to improve vehicle sales velocity and profitability.

What’s newer is that AI and machine learning tools can now also make recommendations around optimal advertising spend. For example, these tools might recommend to a dealer or agency that, instead of discounting a vehicle by $2,000 to sell it, they instead spend $500 on advertising and discount that vehicle $500, thus saving them $1,000. Soon, every single campaign will have this kind of intelligence informing it, in addition to first-party and other third-party audiences that you can layer on. There’s a real shift here, where it’s going to be the norm to deploy budget in real time, in an automated fashion, towards a vehicle based on its value in the market and the right audience that is ready to buy.

Looking for a deeper dive into the automotive space? Check out Jim’s article on how automotive marketers should address pent-up consumer demand.

And if you’re interested in working with experts like Jim, connect with us to learn how our media strategy and activation services can rev up your campaigns.

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