Automobile manufacturers keep investing big money in television car ads—but do they work?
Matthew McConaughey drives through a nondescript city at night, looking ahead pensively. The camera cuts between dazzling shots of the Lincoln MKC as it travels down the highway, and McConaughey, who’s delivering a thoughtful monologue that may or may not have anything to do with buying or owning a car.
Chances are, you’ve seen this commercial or one of the other similar TV ads Lincoln ran that featured the famous actor. The ads went viral and Saturday Night Live, South Park, and Ellen Degeneres all found ways to parody them.
Lincoln’s car ads got a lot of attention—but did they work? Did the commercials have an influence on consumers and convince them to buy a Lincoln car?
In October 2014, after the TV spots aired, the company reported its strongest October sales since 2007. Overall sales were up 25 percent, and of the 8,883 vehicles Lincoln sold that month, 2,197 were MKCs.
That’s not a fluke. There’s something to be said for the impact that car ads can have on consumers.
TV car ads are influencing customers to buy
A study conducted by TVB and Futures Company revealed that television is still the top advertising platform utilized in the auto industry. It’s not the type of platform, though, that necessarily closes deals anymore. TVB notes that television commercials are effective in moving potential customers into the “Consideration” phase. Usually, this means that after viewing a commercial one or more times, they might go online to do more research. Once they’ve done research, they’re more likely to visit a dealership.
The TV ad piques a customer’s interest, but consumers today like to be more informed before buying. A study commissioned by Cox Automotive through IHS Automotive showed that 88 percent of customers use the Internet to shop for a car.
How about all of those car commercials consumers see on Super Bowl Sunday? You hear about auto manufacturers paying top dollar to get air time during the big game, but do their efforts have any impact on consumers?
Again, in this unique situation, car ads still work. While most industries see a decline in social media interaction on Super Bowl Sunday, Adobe says automotive manufacturers see a 60 percent increase in Facebook impressions compared to other Sundays. Auto companies also spent far more money on Super Bowl commercials that any other industry from 2013-2015, so it goes to show that more car ads equal more exposure, which influences customers to interact with a car brand.
Jeep study: How car ads affect consumer opinion
During the 2016 presidential debates, Jeep aired a new commercial that featured different people driving Jeeps, singing along to a Cat Stevens song, and putting various political bumper stickers on their Jeeps. It was evident the ad was trying to send a unifying message, but Ask Your Target Market also wanted to know if it had any impact on consumer opinion of the brand—so they asked 1,000 people to find out.
Overall, 5 percent of respondents said they’re certain or practically certain they’d choose Jeep the next time they purchased a vehicle; 10% said it was very probable.
In the end, Ask Your Target Market said that while the impact on consumer opinion and potential buying decisions was negligible, there was a noticeable positive impact on a couple of key attributes. They observed the key takeaways to be:
- Those who saw the ad were more likely to see Jeep as a brand that shares their values.
- The ad conveyed a sense of popularity, as it showed how different people could enjoy Jeeps.
Also, while only about 15% of the survey respondents seemed like they’d seriously consider a Jeep in the future, it’s impossible to say whether or not they actually will somewhere down the road. The majority may not think they’ll buy a Jeep, but in the future when they’re looking for a new vehicle, a small part of their brain might remember the unifying Jeep ad and their positive perception of the brand. TV car ads plant the seeds that grow into a car purchase.
TV commercials are still the most effective advertising platform when you’re trying to attract the attention of customers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be investing in your online presence as well. Remember that once you’ve got a buyer’s attention, they’re going to research and visit your dealership’s website. Put the time and money into your website and online advertising efforts, and you’ll have a much better chance of seeing significant returns on your investment.