Every year, auto brands and marketers come together for Oracle Drive—an event to share insights and learnings from the past year, as well as projections for a competitive market.
This year, an impressive opener from Terry Kawaja of LUMA Partners set the stage for a conference filled with the need to drive outcome-oriented metrics across the advertising and marketing. However, that fervor was coupled with a call to return to creative as the auto industry has almost been almost too focused on data and letting creative fall by the wayside.
Below, our team shares their key insights from the event as well as their expectations for what is to come in the year ahead.
Who cares about fraud if you focus on outcomes?
Erik Schear, Vice President, Sales
In light of the many fraud issues plaguing digital advertising today, Terry Kawaja’s presentation was incredibly grounding in an unsure environment. He said “Fraud—who cares? Viewability—who cares? Buy outcomes—buy performance, not impressions.” He’s referring to the importance of relying on real metrics, like sales, instead of engagement metrics to determine the success of a digital campaign because impressions, clicks, etc. can be easily manipulated and are, therefore, subject to fraudulent issues. With the recent revelation that a cyber scheme duped advertisers into paying up to $5 million a day for fake ads, his comments are particularly prescient as the industry is forced to shift toward more performance-based metrics.
Kawaja also emphasized how much “modality matters” with today’s consumers. Identifying the audience and being able to determine the device they are on is key to driving successful messaging in a complex media environment. A customer might see an ad on their iPad while sitting at home and act on it immediately. However, that person is likely to see an ad for the exact brand and product they already purchased the next day on another device because the campaign isn’t accounting for cross-screen usage. This level of disconnect is detrimental to the overall brand.
Collectively, we seem to be shifting to a “Show-Me” state of mind with digital ads. Accountability, data, creative and measurement are all part of successful advertising today. Some companies are hiding behind the old way of measuring success, but the future is based in real campaign outcomes.
With advertising, creative and data are of equal importance
Debby Hannigan, Vice President, Sales – Midwest
A key theme I found coming out of Oracle Drive was the need to balance the art and science of advertising. If we get too focused on data, we start to build boring ads. We’ve been a little too focused on getting all of the data and measurement right for the past few years, and although ensuring your campaign has a positive ROI is important, we’ve been neglecting the creative needs of our advertising efforts. As auto marketers, finding an even mix is critical—data is key, but we have to add the human element.
This starts by bringing viewers something they’re actually going to enjoy—whether that is through telling a unique story or sharing information specific to the individual viewer. In a complicated marketing landscape, people-based marketing is going to be the answer. But not just focusing on a demographic or general audience; it’s executing one-to-one marketing with unique messaging for every viewer. If you can talk to each consumer in a specific way or tell a compelling story that really resonates, you will be able to connect the entire sales funnel for your brand.
One thing is clear: we all have to be nimble, agile and ready to change as the clients and consumers are constantly changing. In the words of Kia’s Kim Gardiner, “Go with your gut.”
Media needs to be held accountable in a competitive industry
Ben Sarmiento, Executive Director, Sales – Auto
One of the biggest things I kept hearing at Oracle Drive was that we need to hold media more accountable. This was a common theme throughout the entire summit and necessary for the advancement of the auto industry. We need to move away from proxies like engagement metrics, which don’t tell us anything real about the success of a campaign, and align business challenges with business outcomes. By doing this, it will inherently eliminate bots, fraud and the negativity that tends to surround ad tech. We are seeing that tech can be created to drive fake clicks, viewability, site traffic, etc., but at the end of the day, tech will never be able to “fake” actual sales.
Auto sales over the next 3-4 years are projected to remain flat, and gas prices still dictate category sales. If gas prices are low (like now), car sales will continue to trend down while SUV and crossovers will continue to trend up. What this means at a macro-level is that it will be a real fight to gain market share. The big guys like GM, Toyota and Ford are losing points to the growing OEMs like Hyundai, VW and Nissan. The delta in sales between these two groups are shrinking and making the landscape that much more competitive. Effective marketing will be critical during this time, and being able to prove out just how much your strategy moved the needle for the overall brand will determine success.