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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Turn Your Advertising On Its Head

For those who still have cable TV, manufacturer and dealer ads continue to dominate the commercial breaks. Video advertising makes sense – there’s a message to convey along with imagery that just isn’t as effective in other media forms. For decades, commercial ads have been a high-performing way to create brand awareness and announce new models or redesigns.

But television isn’t what it used to be. Over the course of 2017, 3.4% of cable subscribers cancelled their plans. On the flip side, Netflix reported that nearly 2 million people signed up for their services in the first quarter alone. That’s a massive shift, and it’s because if widespread and inexpensive availability of streaming video. Netflix, HULU, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now – for a relatively low cost viewers can watch what they want in a mostly uninterrupted manner.

The Problem with Cutting the Cord

That’s a problem for advertisers. Dealerships who have a limited advertising budget aren’t getting the results they once did. Car companies need to find a different way – a more effective way – to let potential buyers know about their products.

Here’s the rub: driven by the millennials, the cord-cutting trend is simply an evolution. Those customers are still out there. They’ll still need to buy a car, lease one, or sign onto your car subscription service. And it’s up to advertisers to find an effective way to do it.

Where You Go From Here

Think With Google released a report about this exact topic. The U.S. Navy, who advertises extensively for recruiting, shifted their resources. Their current advertising is 70% TV. Next year, it will be 70% made-for-digital video.

What does that mean? The Navy created 60 short videos from 6 to 15 seconds in length, then strategically placed them in short series. Think about watching a YouTube video and seeing the ads come up – say, three per 10-minute video. A three-clip series can be placed in that video, like a story within a story.

That might seem like a stretch for dealerships with small budgets compared to the U.S. Navy. But it doesn’t take much to scale that idea to be usable. According to Think With Google’s report, there are three things that you need.

Brand Perspective

Catch your viewers by surprise, showing them something they don’t already know. A drone shot of a car driving down a coastline isn’t effective. A six-second video of a mother cleaning up a Cheerios spill with her Honda Odyssey’s built-in HondaVAC tells a story that also gives prospective minivan buyers a surprising detail.

Creative Perspective

Implementing ads in streaming video is only effective if you’re showing your creative to the right people. It takes hard work and research by your marketing team to identify and incorporate it. As an example, if someone is watching a music video, a 10-second clip of the Toyota Entune radio would be good placement for audiophiles. Or if the video is about a video game review, there could be an ad for rear-seat entertainment systems on the Dodge Durango.

The creative – meaning the video ads – needs to be in harmony with the video it’s placed in.

Media Perspective

It’s a package deal. Each part of the media and advertising strategy need to work with each other. A customer watching a six-second bumper needs to be able to relate the ad with the odd TV commercial you still do. And the bumper video should reflect the same production value and theme as your 15-second ads.


Honestly, an individual dealer will have a very difficult time doing this on their own, and many shouldn’t even try it. A marketing company is the best choice to undertake the strategy. But it’s very important to know what results you want, and the composition of your marketing strategy.

To each their own. Maybe you feel confident sticking with your traditional marketing strategy, despite the research and unquestionable shift away from TV and newsprint. But if you’re feeling the hurt already, flip your marketing script. Jump in the deep end with both feet with made-for-digital videos.  

Sherri Riggs

On demand video is where it's at! Thanks for laying it all out for us Jason.

Jeff Hayes

Jason, this is fantastic... I totally agree.  The trick is educating dealers on how a online-first video strategy can be effective, because for most advertisers (not just car dealerships) this is foreign territory.  They also need a lot of convincing that they have to create a lot more content than just the one :30 TV spot per month they're used to doing.

Jason Unrau

Jeff, absolutely. The biggest challenge will be for late adopters who insist on seeing the proof in the pudding before buying into the video strategy. At that point, it's an uphill battle to stand out!

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