Adam's A-1 Advertising Advice

I received a call from the head of a megadealer group in the Southeast who was considering TV advertising. With radio, print, direct mail and Internet use, his advertising cost had climbed to almost $600 per unit sold. He had to do something to reduce his overall ad costs without giving up his 1,000-unit per month total sales volume. The good news for him was that his collection of 11 stores in three

I received a call from the head of a megadealer group in the Southeast who was considering TV advertising. With radio, print, direct mail and Internet use, his advertising cost had climbed to almost $600 per unit sold.

He had to do something to reduce his overall ad costs without giving up his 1,000-unit per month total sales volume.

The good news for him was that his collection of 11 stores in three cities has a brand-name recognition level of 60%.

He wanted to know how to make local broadcast TV advertising work for a large collection of dealerships.

Should he just produce one commercial for all? Buy cable TV advertising around his dealerships? Let each general manager “do their own thing”?

Well, in go-go sales years I guess any advertising works. But when sales are down and market share is tight, a smarter strategy is needed.

First, let's address the issue of general manger control. Megadealers usually employ power GMs who are experienced in running high-volume stores, compensated on net performance, and have already been promised advertising control over their individual stores.

So from the get-go there is an internal issue over who is in charge of advertising. Assuming this issue is handled up front (and it needs to be!), then most of the process to TV should be smooth sailing.

I do not recommend producing only a single “branding” commercial for all of the dealerships. This has been tried unsuccessfully so many times, there is a term for it. It's called an “apple pie” ad. This ad looks great, sounds great and even tastes great, but does nothing good for you! YouTube.com is festooned with entertaining and funny dealership branding ads that were total bombs in terms of lead generation.

Avoid the apple pie and instead consider the following:

What are the real advantages of being a megadealer group?

  1. Having stores all around a region creating instant name recognition for the buyer.
  2. Depth of product and brand choices.
  3. Massive used-vehicle inventory.
  4. Efficient sales-management processes.

So, clearly all of these things must be demonstrated in each television commercial.

But we are only half way there.

What matters to the buyer right now?

  1. Price perception.
  2. Added value.
  3. Great salesperson phone/Web/in-person treatment.

In the end, a megadealer needs a message that serves each dealership brand individually since most buyers have already selected a specific brand when reaching the dealership-choice level.

But within the campaign, all the dealerships must be mentioned to create that massive sense of scale.

I recommend two commercials be produced.

The first, called a branding ad, would run 20% of the time, and feature:

a. Names of all brands/dealership logos.

b. Experiential promise. (i.e. “You're gonna love buying here!”)

c. Full-screen logo.

d. Web site driver.

e. Jingle or slogan.

The second ad, called a retail ad, will be retooled as many times as necessary so that each store gets its own version. It will run 80% of the time, so frequency is important. Often we will employ the use of 15-second ads as well to generate even higher awareness. Each of these retail ads needs to include the following:

  1. Dealership name and location.
  2. Product.
  3. Price.
  4. Payment.
  5. Added value.
  6. Sense of urgency.
  7. Web/phone call driver.

Case in point. A dealer group I consulted a few years ago bought in to this concept. During the campaign, its name recognition level increased from 20% to 92% over just two years. Sales and profits continue to grow.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the ad consulting firm of Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Co. in Red Bank, NJ. Reach him at [email protected] or 941-928-7192.

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

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