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Brian Pasch

Brian Pasch CEO

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What A Surprise - A Car Sale This Month!

To kick off the new year, I would like to start a discussion on automotive advertising and dealer messaging strategies.

This blog post was inspired by the PCG Pit Stop Conferences where DrivingSales' own  Dennis Galbraith was as one of the featured speakers.

Dennis challenged car dealers to evaluate the messaging of their traditional media investments.  

Dennis asked dealers who focused on "price" or "payment" advertising what the ROI of their investment yielded once the "limited time" sale was over.  

That was a very bold challenge by Dennis knowing that dealers often turn to payment and price advertising strategies on a 30-day window, rather than focusing on branding or creating a unique value proposition.  

The later takes more thought and a comprehensive/patient strategy that spans more than 30-60-90 days.

Looking In The Mirror

So, dealers in the DrivingSales community, I would like to ask you: "Are your Radio, TV, and newspaper advertisements focused on price and payment?  

Do you think advertising a car with a payment like $199 a month on radio is effective?

Could your "payment" based advertisements really be white noise?  

How many OEM's and local dealers are advertising "payments" that sound very similar to your ads?

Can you really be objective?

I think payment advertising is WHITE NOISE.  

  •  - Consumers KNOW that every month a SALE is going on at dealerships in their market.  
  • - Consumers have come to KNOW that ADVERTISED payments may not reflect their true financial obligations.  
  • - Consumers have EXPERIENCED bait and switch marketing in many industries.
  • - Price/Payment does not gives consumers a REASON to choose your dealership.

So, the question for dealers today is whether they feel that they need to be part of the herd or is their marketing and advertising message getting away from payments and discounts?

If your OEM is advertising lease payments nationally, should you follow their strategy or build a strategy that focuses on your own Unique Value Proposition (UVP)?  

Do you have a UVP?

What are you finding effective in your market?

What Is An Alternative

I say let everyone beat each other up on Radio, TV, and Print that wants to fight the "My Payment Is Lower Than Your Payment" war.   Your traditional marketing should make you stand out, so think out of the box.

Then use paid search to buy keywords that include the words "price", "payment", "lease", "sale" that surround your brand and also to conquest others.  Jason Ezell from Dataium shared that consumers who use the word "price" in their search phrases are significantly more likely to call or submit a lead.

With that said, have you tested your search visibility for phrases that include "price", "lease", or "payment"?  If you are a Honda dealer, go to Google and type search phrases like:

  • Honda Accord Lease
  • Honda Accord Prices
  • 2012 Honda Accord Lease
  • Honda Accord Sale
  • 2012 Honda Accord

Are you on page one organicially?  For 99% of dealers the answer will be NO because there is no localized search word in these examples.   These are "national" searches but consumers type these in anyway. 

So you need Adwords to be on Page One. If you are using Adwords, are you on Page One? What does your ad say?  Where does it take you?   Are you pleased with what you found?

Attracting "Price" Conscience Consumers Online Is 5x Cheaper

Don't miss the opportunity to capture consumers who are focused on price during the Zero Moment of Truth.  It's much easier to catch them online then to pay large sums of money for the battle of "white noise".  

Let your OEM and other dealers generate "payment" awareness and capture the low hanging fruit with targeted search strategies for consumers who are payment focused.  

Share you thoughts with the DrivingSales community and Happy New Year!


Brian Pasch CEO of PCG

Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing
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Bryan Armstrong
Great post Brian and I do love me some Dennis Data! I think it's hilarious when I hear the same spot for the MONTH that ends with the "This weekend only" phrase. Seriously? It can't be just me because I'm in the business, I believe it strips ALL validity from the message. Building a UVP and Branding take longer but in the long term are much more profitable and sustainable.
Brady Irvine
I totally agree that most ads are stupid, and I also agree with the part about the online advertising because it's so easy to target people who are actually looking for a vehicle. However I couldn't disagree more with the idea that branding your business is the right way to go. First of all, you can't measure the results of brand building advertising so you don't know whether or not it is working. That means you are gambling with your ad budget. (Actually it's worse than gambling because at least with gambling you know whether or not you win pretty quickly.) Secondly, if you are using your ads to talk about your brand you aren't talking about what the customer (or potential customer) wants to hear. (usually themselves) If you aren't talking about what they want to hear they are far more likely to ignore your ad. I have found it to be effective to advertise 2 specific vehicles in my radio ads, and run them for a week. This gives you the opportunity to give more detail about them (and why they are on sale) and if you get phone calls about those specific vehicles you know the ad was effective. The downside of that approach is you learn pretty quickly whether or not you are any good at writing ads, but the upside is that you have the opportunity to fix them if they aren't working and you won't be spending extra money on an ad that doesn't work.
Dennis Galbraith
Good contribution Brady! I sense that you have a good gift for radio advertising. Branding isn't a mistake for all dealers, some have built a fantastic business on it. However, many dealers feel the same way you do Brady and don't want to do anything that can't quickly be measured. (Nothing wrong with that.) When that is the case, they should not spend any money on branding, just as you have advocated. There are some radio stations in some markets with extraordinarily low spot rates. If you can buy spots for a very low CPM on the format that fits your target demographic and in the right time frame, you might be able to make radio work for driving immediate and measurable traffic to the store. However, only 4% of those listening are in market for a vehicle at the time they hear your spot. It's a difficult task. For most dealers in most markets, the low-hanging fruit for traffic-now advertising can be found on in-market sites and apps (,, Edmunds, etc.), in-market search terms, and in buying leads from in-market shoppers. When I bought advertising for dealers in the early 90s, newspaper was the only real traffic-now medium, and the rates were outrageous. Many of us used sales messages on radio and TV to try to bend those branding media into driving immediate traffic to the store. You can still experiment with it, but I'm glad there are so many other was to drive immediate traffic in a way that is cost effective.
Brady Irvine
Thanks Dennis, I totally understand what you are saying and it makes sense. I agree a brand is valuable, it's just expensive to establish. You are 100% correct about the targeted nature of online ads being more effective than radio. (or newspaper or T.V.) Another often ignored (or done poorly) opportunity to get super targeted leads is multi-step direct mail. Think about the tons of orphan and lost customers most dealers have access to. Most dealers (if they do anything at all) send out a crappy form letter that never even gets opened. Can you imagine what a little thought and a few extra dollars spent could do? I agree that radio spots are usually insanely expensive, which is why I prefer the types of ads where you can measure response. If you know for a fact that every $500 (or $1000 or whatever) you spend on the radio gets you a customer, you'll probably keep spending the money. (Especially if you think about repeat and referral business...) Anyways, I hope none of this has come across as argumentative. I think you're great and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this stuff with you.

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